Sen. Tim Scott said “Washington schemes” and “socialist dreams” won’t deliver America from its pandemic doldrums, using a prime-time GOP rebuttal Wednesday to decry Democrats as divisive virtue-signalers and promote free market reforms over the big-spending plans President Biden outlined to a joint session of Congress.
The South Carolina Republican said Mr. Biden needs to leverage last year’s bipartisan stimulus and COVID-19 vaccines developed under former President Donald Trump to reopen society faster, particularly schools.
“This should be a joyful springtime for our nation. This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run,” Mr. Scott said. “So why do we feel so divided and anxious? A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy-laden.”
He said Mr. Biden fell short on his unity pledge in less than 100 days, pointing to Democrats’ $2 trillion virus-relief bill that passed without any GOP support.
“He promised to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans no matter how we voted,” Mr. Scott said. “Three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”
He said the GOP can be relied on to support infrastructure like roads, bridges and high-speed broadband, but said Democrats are pushing a “liberal wishlist” and “job-killing” tax hikes instead. And he blasted Mr. Biden’s handling of the southern U.S. border and the White House’s Families Plan as government overreach.
“This is not common ground,” Mr. Scott said.
Mr. Scott, the only Black Republican senator, is considered a rising star in the party.
Beyond his turn in the spotlight late Wednesday, he is leading negotiations with Democrats on an overhaul of police procedures after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The senator talked about what it’s like to be pulled over for no reason or be followed in a store. He also said he gets targeted by the left for his Republican views.
“I get called Uncle Tom and the N-word by progressives,” he said.
Mr. Scott told Democrats to accept the olive branches he extends on policing, saying they need to strike a solution instead of relishing the issue. And he rejected the idea that America is inherently racist.
“Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country,” he said. “It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. It’s wrong to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
The senator also defended state GOP reforms to election laws, saying they are mainstream and make it easier to vote in places like Georgia than many blue states.
Reliably conservative, Mr. Scott voted in favor of Obamacare repeal during Mr. Trump’s term, supported the former president’s nominees and promoted a part of the GOP’s 2017 tax overhaul that incentivized development in underserved areas.
Mr. Scott said America needs a return to the pre-pandemic agenda pushed by the “Great Opportunity Party.”
“Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans,” he said. “We passed Opportunity Zones, criminal justice reform, and permanent funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the first time ever. We fought the drug epidemic, rebuilt our military, and cut taxes for working families and single moms like mine. Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people.”
In that vein, Mr. Scott joined the GOP chorus saying Mr. Biden must prod all K-8 schools to reopen for in-person instruction. He said ongoing closures in some districts present the “clearest case for school choice in our lifetimes” and that education is “the nearest thing to magic” in our society.
“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future. Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries’ did. Private and religious schools did,” he said. “Science has shown for months that schools are safe. But too often, powerful grown-ups set science aside. And kids like me were left behind.”
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