For the past 18 years, Senate Republicans have had one leader: Mitch McConnell took the job in 2006 and has retained it ever since. But with his decision to step down from the post after November’s elections, there are three Republicans vying to replace him.

One of them is Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. He was first elected to the Senate in 2018 and ran against McConnell two years ago.

He’s now competing with Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota to win the support of his Senate Republican colleagues.

The Daily Signal invited all three senators to discuss their plans, and Scott was the first to accept our request. Listen to our interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast” or read a lightly edited transcript below.

Rob Bluey: Senator, why did you decide to enter the race for Republican leader?

Sen. Rick Scott: First off, we’ve got to have big change. Let’s think about just the citizens we represent. They’re fed up with a budget that’s not balanced. They’re fed up with an open border. They’re fed up with all this wasteful spending. They’re fed up, basically, with the federal government that’s out of control.

If you want change, you’re going to have to change your way the Senate is run. We need to go back to represent our states. We need to be fighting over issues. The bill shouldn’t be decided by McConnell and [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer. We should go through a committee process. There’s so many things we’ve got to do to get this country back where it needs to go.

We need to have a Republican leader that has a relationship with President [Donald] Trump. He’s going to win. He’s going to have an agenda. We got to do everything we can to help him get his agenda done.

Bluey: When you talk about those big changes, in some ways, it seems that you’re suggesting the Senate is broken right now and needs fixing. What are some of the ways that you would go about making sure those reforms are put into place?

Scott: No. 1, I don’t think a leader should have a term of more than six years. No. 2 is the bill shouldn’t be done by McConnell and Schumer. They should be done at the committee level where everybody has the opportunity to have input that are on those committees.

And then after that, we ought to have a robust amendment process on the Senate floor. So, if I would like an amendment that’s going to represent my state better, I ought to be able to do that.

If I can’t talk people into it, that’s my problem. If I don’t even have a chance because the bill never went through a committee or we never had any amendment votes, I have the opportunity to say yes or no. That’s not the way the Senate is supposed to represent work. I’m supposed to be able to represent my state and fight for the issues that are important to my state. That’s not how the Senate works right now.

Bluey: As you’ve observed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s approach to running the Senate, what you see as some of his biggest or most glaring failures?

Scott: He wants to, and he does a lot of this with McConnell, but they want to write the bills. It’s not written out of a committee. It doesn’t come up through a committee.

There’s one or two people who have input and then if they put them on the Senate floor where you just have an up-or-down vote, you don’t even have a chance to improve it. We all have ways we could improve these bills and we don’t even have a shot at trying to improve the bills.

That’s not the way the Senate is supposed to work. I’m supposed to be able to fight like hell for my state. Every senator should have the opportunity to fight for their state, but if you don’t go through a committee, you have no input on the bill, and you don’t have any amendment votes, it’s pretty hard to represent your state.

Bluey: Some of the early chatter in Washington seems to revolve around a leader’s role in raising money for members of his party. I’m curious to know your thoughts on that and perhaps why that shouldn’t be the sole qualification for somebody to get the job as leader?

Scott: Any leader is going to be able to raise money. A lot of the money flows through PACs that the leader might be or is tied to. Anybody is going to be able to raise the money as long as you’re willing to do the job.

As you know, I’m from a big state, so for my governor’s race I had to raise a lot of money and my Senate race. But the real job of the Senate leader is to represent the conference. Our bylaws, Republican bylaws, require us to have a legislative agenda. We haven’t had a legislative agenda since I’ve been up here for five years.

We need to come together as a group and say, “What do we want to get done the next two years?” And then let’s say, “OK, so now this is what we want to get done. How do we get it done? What’s going to be our strategy? What do we have to do to get these things done?”

That’s what we ought to be doing every day. We shouldn’t be sitting there and be reactive to what Chuck Schumer does.

And then, if we can get the majority, which I’m very optimistic, then let’s lead. Let’s focus on how do we secure the border? How do we balance the budget? How do we improve our foreign policy and have a positive agenda to solve the problems that the American public has sent us all to D.C. to do?

Bluey: Conservatives were clamoring for that legislative agenda back in 2022 for the midterm elections. You offered one, Sen. McConnell rejected your idea, instead said he wanted to merely run against President [Joe] Biden. Looking back in retrospect, why was McConnell’s strategy a mistake?

Scott: He has the belief that you shouldn’t stand for anything. You should just talk about how bad the Democrats are. And the Democrats are bad, there’s no question about it.

But my experience as a business guy is I was able to attract talent to work with me on my management teams because I had an agenda to get done and they bought into the agenda. If they didn’t like my agenda, they wouldn’t come to work with me. The public wants a plan. The public wants a plan. I had a plan when I ran in 2010 to be governor to turn the economics of our state around, give people a job. When I came to D.C., I had a plan for how to make Washington work for you.

The public is clamoring for a plan. The public is clamoring for somebody that’s going to fight like hell to defeat the policies and the ideology of the radical Left, which we all know is destroying this country. That’s what the public wants. That’s what we all talk about when we run. While we ought to do it when we’re here.

Bluey: You’ve mentioned your role as a successful businessman. You have served as Florida’s governor. You have also worn the hat of being chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In all three of those roles that you’ve had, what is your leadership style? What can people expect from you as somebody who is aspiring for this job?

Scott: First off, I’m very goal-oriented. I want to accomplish something. I became the governor, I built businesses because I wanted to accomplish something. I ran to the Senate because I wanted to accomplish something.

I’ve been very clear with my Senate role, we’ve got to change the way Washington works. It’s not working the American public right now. What they’re going to see is somebody that’s very focused on getting a result. That’s No. 1.

No. 2, if you look at my business career, my government career, this is a team event. You’ve got to bring people together to find a common goal to get anything done. And it’s not going to be just your ideas. You have to have a consensus. And so, you’ve got to figure out what it is and then you have to work and have a strategy to accomplish it.

If you look at any successful business, if you look at successful governors, that’s what they do. They have a plan and they work their plan. They surround themselves with people that believe in what they’re trying to accomplish.

That’s what they’ll see. If I can become the Republican leader, hopefully the majority leader, you’ll have a Republican conference that is very results-oriented and the goals will be very clear.

We will solve the problems that the country believes are the most important problems today. Those are securing the border, making sure that we get inflation under control, balancing the budget, making sure we fix our foreign policies so we don’t have wars going all around the world.

Bluey: On that specific note, what are some steps that you would like to take to empower those individual Republican senators to have a greater role in the legislative process?

Scott: The biggest thing is ask for their opinion, ask for their advice to get them in the middle of everything.

We have very talented Republican senators. And we are to say, “OK, with your background, would you like to be involved in this?” And you get people in the middle of it, of the issues.

And guess what? You bring out new ideas, you bring out new energy, and you get a lot of things done. But the biggest thing is, you get people in the middle of the problem. Republican senators, they want to solve problems, so let them do it, get them in the middle of it.

Bluey: What is your vision for reducing this reliance that it seems that Washington has year after year for omnibus spending bills and emergency supplementals?

Scott: Not having a budget to me is foolish. It’s not fair to the American public. Not having a budget is just basically having spending bills. What that means is we’re going to have more inflation.

That’s wrong. We should do everything we can to help all of our families by getting inflation under control. You cannot do it with a balanced budget, so we now have almost $35 trillion worth the debt. We have interest expense that exceeds our national defense budget. We have a Federal Reserve whose balance sheet is out of control.

What’s going to happen is, in that environment, interest rates can’t come down. That means that if you think you’re going to get a lower interest rate for a house, you’re foolish. Your credit card rate, interest rates are not going to come down. On top of that, we’re not going to see a reduction in gas prices and food prices and these things. So, spending matters.

I’ve always, my business life, I balanced the budget. The governor’s job, we balanced the budget every year. We actually paid off a third of the state debt in my years as governor. We can do this at the federal level.

The way you do it, is you say, this is my anticipated federal revenue, so that’s how much money we’re going to spend. You can do it, but if you just always say to yourself, “I don’t think I can get that done,” that’s going to be reality, you will not get it done.

Bluey: Will there be any backroom deals with a Leader Rick Scott in charge of things?

Scott: No, no. We all are part of this. You need to be transparent, you need to tell everybody what’s happening. If you want people to support what you’re doing, you don’t do it behind closed doors. You do it by talking to people, by getting their information, by getting them involved in what you’re trying to accomplish.

Bluey: You challenged Mitch McConnell for this job in 2022. What lessons did you learn from that race that you hope to apply this time?

Scott: Unfortunately, in that race, they rushed the vote to the next day, so we didn’t have time to actually go and sit down with everybody.

What I’m hoping to do is sit down with every Republican senator and say, “What do you want to accomplish?” And then my role will be if I can win is to say, “How do I help you accomplish your goals? How do I help you represent your state?”

The Republican leader’s responsibility is to help each senator be successful. A successful senator is somebody that is successfully representing their individual state.

Bluey: Sen. McConnell has served 18 years as leader. You would like to have a six-year term limit for this position. Why is that change important to you?

Scott: I’ve always believed in term limits because, No. 1, nobody consolidates power for a long time that way. No 2 is everybody realizes that you only have six years to get what you want to accomplish, so everybody gets more results-focused.

We have term limits for the governor, we have term limits for our legislature, and what that means is you’re going to get new leadership with new energy every few years, you’re going to have people very focused on what they can get done in their time in leadership or their time in office.

Bluey: Two of your colleagues, Sens. John Thune and John Cornyn, are also in the mix for Republican leader. What distinguishes you from each of them?

Scott: First off, they work hard to represent their state. Probably the difference to what I bring to the table is my business background. I built the largest hospital company; I built a variety of manufacturing companies. I’ve been involved in a variety of businesses. My first business was a donut shop when I was 22 and I got out of the Navy, so my mom could have a job. I had the opportunity to serve in the military. I had the opportunity to be the governor.

Those are the types of things I bring to the table, but the biggest thing is, and I tell people, I’m a turnaround guy. If you think the country’s headed in the right direction and you don’t think there has to be dramatic change, no one should vote for me. I believe the country’s in trouble. I believe there’s so many people in the American public who are struggling. The only way we’re going to make their lives better is if we have dramatic change. And that’s what I bring to the table.

Bluey: Have you seen examples of your entry into the race or even just the chatter about you potentially entering the race before you formally did that has moved either of them in your direction when it comes to some of the reforms that maybe Mitch McConnell has not necessarily endorsed in the past?

Scott: One thing everyone has started talking about is term limits. Most people who are elected don’t really believe in term limits, but the average person believes in it. I know the public believes in it. Now we’re having a real conversation about. Should there be a six-year term?

We have a six-year term for every other leadership position in the Republican Senate. We ought to have one for the leader. There’s no reason it should be different. I think that’s No. 1.

No. 2, we’re starting to have conversation about it. How should we be managed? Because the leader’s role is not to be a dictator. The leader’s role is to be a leader of a group of individuals that get to represent their individual states.

Bluey: I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sen. Roger Marshall about the Republican-wide discussion that took place. It seems that those types of events may occur more frequently in the future, should this play out the way you hope.

Scott: I believe in it. I believe we ought to have real conversations and then have real discussions and let everybody bring their ideas to the table without any negative ramifications.

I don’t get why I was kicked off and [Sen.] Mike Lee was kicked off the Commerce Committee just because I ran against McConnell. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I think I’ve run the biggest company of any person ever in the history of the Senate that’s served. And then Mike and I got kicked off because Mike nominated me to be the Republican leader. That stuff is wrong.

>>> Sen. Roger Marshall Prescribes Solutions for Congress’ Budget Woes

We ought to say, “Hey, Rick, you bring this to the table. Mike, you bring this to the table.” Whoever it is, “This is what you bring to the table. You ought to be really active in those ideas. And let’s fight over who’s got the best idea and then let’s come together with the goal that we get a result.”

I know that we have to secure the border. I know that we have to get inflation under control. These are things that are so simple to me that the public needs and deserves.

Bluey: Those, of course, are big priorities of former President Donald Trump as well. You sound confident that he’s going to be victorious in November. Why are you the one who’s best positioned to not only advance his agenda, but also those critical votes on the nominees he puts forward to serve in his administration.

Scott: I knew President Trump before either of us ran for office. I’ve known him for a long time. I believe in what he’s trying to accomplish. He’s in the same position I am, that we have to have a dramatic change. We can’t nibble at the edges. There has to be a significant change in how our federal government is run. The public realizes that, that’s why he’s going to win.

What he’s going to need is a partner in the Senate who wants that to happen and help to make sure that’s exactly what happens in the Senate, not just in the White House.

Bluey: And finally, what kind of reaction have you received either from your constituents in Florida or some of your colleagues in the Republican conference since making the announcement?

Scott: I’ve had a lot of positive feedback. No. 1, my colleagues that want to sit down and talk about where we go, so that’s a positive. No. 2, in the state of Florida, people are excited that there’s a possibility of a Republican leader and hopefully the majority of their leaders are coming from our state.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott is running for Senate Republican leader. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)