Florida's Rick Scott alters policy plan causing heartburn for GOP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has amended his plan to overhaul how the federal government works after Democrats, including President Joe Biden, repeatedly invoked it to accuse Republicans of looking to cut Medicare and Social Security.
Scott unveiled his original plan last year when serving as chair of the campaign committee for Senate Republicans. It called for all federal legislation to sunset in five years, and if a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.
His revised plan specifies exceptions for Social Security, Medicare, national security, veterans benefits, and other essential services. The change comes as Democrats work to drive a wedge between GOP lawmakers and their base of older voters who rely on government programs for income and health insurance.
Biden held up a pamphlet of Scott's original plan when he visited the senator's home state of Florida last week, saying "I know that a lot of Republicans — their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. If that's your dream, I'm your nightmare."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also been highlighting Scott's proposals to criticize the GOP's budgetary demands. And Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has consistently sought to distance Senate Republicans from Scott, telling reporters this week: "Let me say one more time, there is no agenda on the part of Senate Republicans to revisit Medicare or Social Security, period."
Scott's new plan takes a shot at his critics, saying in bold typeface: "Note to President Biden, Sen. Schumer, and Sen. McConnell – As you know, this was never intended to apply to Social Security, Medicare, or the US Navy."
Scott explained the changes he made in a Washington Examiner op-ed that lashed out at Biden as well as McConnell.
"I have never supported cutting Social Security or Medicare, ever. To say otherwise is a disingenuous Democrat lie from a very confused president. And Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is also well aware of that. It's shallow gotcha politics, which is what Washington does," Scott wrote.
The White House wasn't buying Scott's explanation, though. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said cutting Medicare and Social Security was a "longstanding passion" for Scott.
"Make no mistake, his true colors are undeniable and on the record," Jean-Pierre said.
McConnell and Scott have been at odds for some time now. Scott challenged McConnell in November to become the chamber's minority leader, but McConnell easily prevailed in the first attempt to oust him. The vote was 37-10, senators said, with one other senator voting present.
House Republicans have been calling for reducing government spending as part of any agreement to increase the nation's borrowing authority in the coming months. Democrats have been calling for a clean debt ceiling with no strings attached and are challenging Republicans to spell out any cuts they propose to make. Scott's overhaul Friday signals the difficulty Republicans will have in answering that challenge.
Associated Press staff writer Christopher Megerian contributed to this report.