Rick Scott embraces his role as Biden antagonist

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks to a reporter as he leaves a Senate Republican Conference luncheon on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Greg Nash
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks to a reporter as he leaves a Senate Republican Conference luncheon on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is embracing his newfound role as one of President Biden’s chief GOP antagonists.   

Scott, a first-term senator and chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, stepped up his attacks on Biden this week and went up with a TV ad, a move that could help bolster his national profile.   

Scott, who has a reputation in the Senate as somewhat of a loner, is widely seen as having White House ambitions if former President Trump doesn’t run for office. And he’s not shying away from his push for Biden to debate him over inflation — a setup that, if the president accepted it, would likely draw comparisons to presidential election debates.   

“He said yesterday he was going to put … my rescue plan up on their website. I hope he does, and I asked him if he wanted to debate me. If he wanted to debate over the economy, I would be glad to,” Scott told The Hill.   

Scott and Biden, by the GOP senator’s own admission, don’t have much of a relationship. But that’s hardly stopped them from talking about each other.    

Scott caught headlines when he said that the most effective thing Biden could do to fight inflation would be to resign.   

“Biden’s raging inflation is a tax on every American. Families are suffering, but Blame-Game Biden refuses to take responsibility. It’s clear that Biden is the problem. He is incoherent and confused and he needs to resign,” Scott said in a statement on Wednesday that doubled down on earlier comments.    

Scott on Tuesday called Biden “incapacitated and incoherent” after Biden referred to him as a senator from Wisconsin. Biden told reporters: “I think the man has a problem.”  

Scott’s call for Biden to resign has put him in front of GOP colleagues rhetorically — and not for the first time.  

Last year, Scott questioned if Biden should be removed from office through the 25th Amendment in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, asking in a tweet at the time: “Is Joe Biden capable of discharging the duties of his office, or has time come to exercise the provisions of the 25th Amendment?”   

GOP senators aren’t taking his latest criticism of Biden literally, chalking it up to election-year politics.   

“Well, I don’t even know how to answer that. I think it’s just … an even numbered year. It’s campaign rhetoric, and I’m guessing neither side takes either of those accusations or attacks very seriously,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D), the No. 2 GOP senator.   

A senior Republican senator, asked about Scott’s call for Biden to resign, added: “Surely he doesn’t really want Vice President Harris to be president, so I assume it’s just politics.”   

Scott’s own role as one of Biden’s most vocal antagonists comes after Democrats have signaled that they are ready to make him one of their chief Republican boogeymen heading into the November midterm elections, where both their House and Senate majorities are at stake.   

Democrats, including Biden and the party’s campaign arms, have seized on a plan released by Scott earlier this year and are trying to use it against the party writ large.   

Biden on Tuesday assailed Scott’s plan as an “ultra MAGA plan” — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.  

“What’s the congressional Republican plan? They don’t want to solve inflation by lowering your costs, they want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income,” Biden said.  

A poll conducted on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found that a majority of battleground state voters would be less likely to support Republicans if the GOP moved to end Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.   

Scott’s plan doesn’t explicitly call for ending those programs. But Democrats have seized on two pieces of the plan as endorsing it in practice: One section of Scott’s 11-point plan says that “all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount.”

Another part states, “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”  

That plan sparked private and public pushback from other Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), over concerns that it opened candidates in key battleground states up to attacks from Democrats. Scott specified that the plan was not meant to represent the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) or the party — just himself.   

But Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said that Scott’s call for Biden to resign and his invitation for a debate didn’t come up in a closed-door GOP lunch on Wednesday.   

“If I thought it was conflicting or creating a distraction, maybe I would be concerned about it, [but] I think he’s doing a great job as NRSC chairman,” Cramer said.   

The verbal scuffle comes as Republicans want to make the November elections a referendum on Biden and view inflation as a primary line of attack. The consumer price index, the Labor Department’s closely watched gauge of inflation, rose 8.3 percent over the past 12 months and 0.3 percent in April alone.   

Scott, asked about criticism that he’s just trying to further his own political ambitions, waved off the critique.   

“Maybe I’m a business guy that ran for governor on the economy, and maybe I care about the economy,” Scott said. “Maybe that’s what it is.”

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