Analysis: Joe Biden is trying to make Rick Scott the face of the midterms
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott tweeted a picture of himself on Tuesday standing outside the White House with this caption: “.@JoeBiden said he wished he had enough copies of my Rescue America plan, so I stopped by the White House today to make sure he did. Thanks for spreading the word, Joe!”
Scott was holding a copy of his plan, a blueprint, he insists, of what Republicans will do if they retake the Senate majority in the midterm elections.
Biden was clearly thrilled with Scott’s post. “Couldn’t agree more, Rick,” the President responded on Twitter. “And if anyone else wants to read your plan to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, they should go to http://joebiden.com/rickscottsplan.”
The back and forth marked the latest effort by Biden and his team to elevate Scott and his “Rescue America” plan as the general election approaches.
In a speech late last month, Biden said this:
“Rick Scott, the – who heads up the ultra-MAGA agenda for the Republicans, he’s the head of the Senate campaign committee for the Republicans. … He said – he thinks everyone in America should pay taxes – not more taxes – everyone in America should pay taxes. All those folks making less than $100,000 a year, if they have some exemption, they should have to pay net more taxes. Average increase expected to be $1,200 bucks for every American under that amount.
“Well, beyond that, he says that we should try to be in a situation where we – Congress, every five years, has to affirmatively vote to maintain Social Security, which you paid for your whole life. You have to affirmatively vote. It comes up – if it’s not positively voted for, it’s gone, it’s eliminated. And you think I’m making this up; it’s not. It’s the only written Republican platform so far.”
And back in May, Biden echoed that same message:
“Sen. Rick Scott of [Florida], a member of the Senate Republican leadership, laid it all out in a plan. It’s the ultra-MAGA agenda. Their plan is to raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95 percent of whom make less than $100,000 a year, total income.”
Let’s take a quick step back and look at what is actually in Scott’s proposal. It is true that in Scott’s plan, all federal legislation – including Social Security and Medicare – would automatically sunset after five years, forcing Congress to re-approve those benefits. And in Scott’s original plan, he proposed that all Americans pay some form of income tax – although he backed away from that over the summer. (Here are 24 other things Scott’s “Rescue America” plan would do.)
Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has argued, repeatedly, that voters need to know what the party would do if handed power in the midterm elections. That is not a view broadly held within the Senate GOP conference. Most notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly thrown shade at Scott’s plan.
“We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years,” McConnell said shortly after the release of Scott’s plan. “That will not be a part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.” (McConnell has long been a believer that Republicans do not need a detailed agenda in order to win back Senate control – and that instead they need to keep all of the attention on the Democrats’ plans and actions.)
Scott responded with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which he went after McConnell without naming him. “If we have no bigger plan than to be a speed bump on the road to socialism, we don’t deserve to govern,” wrote Scott. “Most Republicans in Congress agree, but many live in fear of speaking the truth in Washington. If you do, the Democrats will attack you and use it against you. Therefore, they tell us, it’s best to keep your head down, vote as directed, and be quiet.”
Biden’s decision to elevate Scott – and to make him, along with former President Donald Trump, the de facto faces of the Republican Party in this election – is McConnell’s worst nightmare come true.
Recent Democratic polling gains in the generic congressional ballot, as well as improvements in Biden’s job approval rating, are due to the growing sense that the 2022 election isn’t going to be a referendum on Biden and Democrats, but rather a choice between the visions of governance laid out by the opposing parties.
To be sure, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has played a critical role in the evolution of the election from a referendum into a choice. But Biden and his fellow Democrats are working hard to make Scott and his “Rescue America” plan into something that every voter knows about this fall.