(R., S.C.) countered President Biden’s call for the country to unify around sweeping new government programs, saying that the Democratic president and his party aren’t reaching for common ground but are instead “pulling us further and further apart,” particularly on racial issues.
Mr. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, ticked off a list of differences between his party and the president, from the tax increases that Mr. Biden has proposed to the president’s drive to tack on to an infrastructure package major initiatives to finance programs like elder care. He called Mr. Biden’s plans “a liberal wish list of big government waste.”
But Mr. Scott’s major theme was race, which spans topics including policing, spending and voting that are prompting sharp debate in Congress and the country.
“Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race,” Mr. Scott said. “I know firsthand our healing is not finished.”
Mr. Scott, who said he has been called “Uncle Tom” by liberals, suggested Democrats had given cover to insidious forces that sought to define people by the color of their skin in the same way that Americans a century ago—and he gestured to his own skin color—were told that “if they looked a certain way, they were inferior.”
“Today kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again, and if they look a certain way they’re an oppressor,” Mr. Scott said. “From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.”
Mr. Scott was picked jointly by Senate Minority Leader
(R., Ky.) and House Minority Leader
(R., Calif.) to deliver the Republican response. The assignment frequently goes to public figures with broad national ambitions;
Sen. Marco Rubio
(R., Fla.) delivered the GOP response in 2013 and made a run for the presidency three years later.
Mr. Scott, 55 years old, is being watched to see if he has similar plans.
He takes the spotlight at a moment that is tailor-made for his profile. His years of work on topics such as helping low-income workers, policing, and criminal justice yielded new laws, including measures to spur investment in low-income communities, change sentencing guidelines for federal prisoners and to allow for early release of thousands of inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes.
He referenced those achievements on Wednesday, citing the passage of funding for historically black colleges, so-called opportunity zones and criminal justice reform. But Mr. Scott, who is working behind the scenes with Democrats on a policing overhaul, said Democrats had last year prevented further gains by refusing to compromise after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police.
“My friends across the aisle seem to want the issue more than they want the solution,” he said.
Mr. Scott also challenged Mr. Biden’s efforts to take credit for the vaccination of a large swath of the country and said the Democratic leader hadn’t built on the hope offered by the waning of the pandemic.
“This administration inherited a tide that has already turned,” Mr. Scott said. “Job openings are rebounding. So why do we feel so divided, anxious? A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy laden.”
Write to Siobhan Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Appeared in the April 29, 2021, print edition as ‘Republican Rebuttal Calls Plan Divisive.’
Source: WSJ – US News