Scott’s agenda spurs backlash from Democrats, GOP alike
Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) surprising decision to release his own GOP agenda has opened a new front for criticism from Democrats and even drawn some fire from fellow Republicans going into the midterm campaign season.
The Florida senator, who is also chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), released a 31-page memo on Tuesday laying out what he thinks the GOP agenda should be if the party regains control of the Senate.
The move sparked an immediate reaction from the White House and Senate Democrats, who took particular issue with the plan’s call for all Americans to pay income taxes.
However, some Republicans have also taken issue with the unusual move of releasing the plan after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to release an agenda.
“At best, it is wholly irresponsible and negligent. At worst, it is somebody trying to put their own political ambitions ahead of the party as a whole, especially when they are taxed with leading a committee,” one Republican strategist told The Hill.
Other Republican figures took to Twitter to air their frustrations with Scott’s move.
Veteran Republican strategist Tony Fabrizio tweeted that if Scott wants to “challenge” McConnell, he should “just say so.”
“Don’t shadowbox,” he added.
Fabrizio was responding to a tweet from Scott’s political adviser Curt Anderson, who hit back against reporters citing anonymous Republican critics of the plan.
“When anonymous consultants who helped lose the Senate majority complain about Rick Scott’s [Rescue America] plan, call me and I will destroy them on the record. The idea that we should be timid & quiet without a plan is antiquated thinking from the 90’s,” Anderson said in the tweet.
Scott’s office has pointed out that the plan was released by the senator in a strictly individual capacity, not in coordination with McConnell or the NRSC.
“This is not something that Rick Scott is proposing as the NRSC plan or the Republican Party’s plan, it’s the Rick Scott plan,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the senator.
Scott’s 11-point proposal, which is known as the “Rescue America Plan,” includes a pledge to finish and name the border wall along the U.S. southern border after former President Trump, as well as calls for no longer referencing ethnicity on government forms and ending universities’ eligibility for federal aid if they take race into consideration during the admissions process.
Scott predicted in the plan itself that the agenda would be mocked by Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I’ll warn you; this plan is not for the faint of heart. It will be ridiculed by the ‘woke’ left, mocked by Washington insiders, and strike fear in the heart of some Republicans,” Scott wrote. “At least I hope so.”
Hartline said Scott and McConnell are on the same page in thinking that the midterm elections will be about President Biden, like many midterms are for first-term presidents. He told The Hill that Scott’s move to release the plan was a way to kickstart a conversation among voters as the campaign cycle gears up.
“People try to sort of assign different motivations and whatever else,” Hartline said. “It’s what he decided was the right thing to do.”
“He believes that voters do deserve to at least have a conversation about what Republicans would do if we take back the majority,” he said. “It’s something he hears all the time from voters, activists, and donors.”
But others say Scott’s move to release the plan is an indicator he has 2024 on his mind.
“That’s what you say when you’re trying to spend money to potentially run for president,” the Republican strategist said. “When you take on a chairmanship at the NRSC, you are responsible for helping the candidates across the country in making sure they have the resources to deliver whatever message they need to win their races and give us the majority.”
Regardless, Scott is going full steam ahead in selling the plan. On Thursday, the senator rolled out a seven-figure national television and digital ad buy to promote the agenda. Scott and his team are also set to hold events in Florida to talk about it this week.
“Outside of Washington, the reaction has been very positive,” Hartline said. “Especially in our base, but really beyond that, voters have been wanting to see something like this for a long time.”
Democrats, on the other hand, have used the plan as an opportunity to hit Republicans in what is likely to be a contentious battle to keep their majority in the Senate.
“If the goal was to receive bipartisan criticism, Rick Scott achieved his goal,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. “In fact, he went above and beyond his goal.”
The party’s strategists and operatives argue that the plan is out of touch with voters and are trying to tie it to the whole GOP, citing Scott’s role as NRSC chairman.
On Tuesday, numerous state Democratic parties, including in Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio, released statements tying GOP Senate candidates in those states to Scott’s agenda, particularly his call for all Americans to pay income taxes.
“It is Rick Scott, the chair of their reelection efforts, putting out this platform,” said one Democratic strategist. “Now all of these candidates are going to answer these questions, do they agree with their party’s platform?”
Some Democratic campaigns are also using Scott to hit their opponents, including Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’s (D) Senate campaign, which tied incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to Scott’s agenda.
Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm rolled out a five-figure radio and podcast ad buy hitting Scott over the agenda on Wednesday.
“While Senate Democrats are fighting to lower costs and cut taxes, Senate GOP candidates have found their midterm bumper sticker: raising taxes on Americans, seniors and working families,” said David Bergstein, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a statement.
The Democratic National Committee has echoed the same sentiment in their messaging on the matter.
The Republican strategist told The Hill that it was a given that Democrats would use the agenda to go after down-ballot candidates.
“Don’t put candidates, especially during primary season, in the difficult position of having to answer for your agenda, rather than their own,” the strategist exclaimed. “Stop it.”