Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks to reporters following a lengthy closed-door meeting about the consequences of the GOP performance in the midterm election, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022.
CNN  — 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell won a secret-ballot leadership election after days of finger-pointing over the Republican midterm losses, putting him on pace to become the longest-serving Senate party leader in US history.

McConnell defeated Florida Sen. Rick Scott, his first challenger in his 15 years atop his conference.

McConnell won the leadership vote 37-10-1 and said at a news conference that he was “pretty proud” of the result.

“I don’t own this job. Anybody who wants to run for it can feel free to do so,” McConnell said. “I’m not in any way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition.”

Asked whether the challenge to his leadership made him more or less likely he’ll step aside after next year, when he will beat the record of longest-serving Senate party leader, McConnell said, “Look, I’m not going anywhere.”

Senate Republican Conference chairman Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming formally announced the slate of GOP leadership positions following the elections, including that Republican Sen. John Thune would continue as whip. Montana Sen. Steve Daines will replace Scott as the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will become the next policy chair, replacing Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who’s retiring at the end of his term. West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito will become the GOP conference’s vice chairwoman.

The fight for Senate GOP leader underscored the discontent brewing among Republican senators, who failed to win back the majority despite a favorable national political environment.

“I voted for change,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who voted for Scott. “I accept the results of the conference, and I hope we can be better.