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Mitch McConnell Can’t Stop Rick Scott’s Self-destructive Spree

Photo: CNN

Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott has a lot to answer for these days. Last year, when he was mulling a presidential bid or at least a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (which he pursued very unsuccessfully), he rolled out an “11-Point Plan to Rescue America,” a purported midterm agenda for his party that no one had asked for. (He was then chairing the Senate GOP campaign committee — not very successfully either.) The whole thing was wildly extremist, combining ultra-MAGA culture-war screeds with social and fiscal policies that seemed to be borrowed from Barry Goldwater’s 1964 talking points.

Back in March, McConnell told reporters he rejected the “rescue plan” while Scott stood just a few feet away. There were two howlers the Republican leaders was particularly ticked off about. “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years,” he said. “That will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.”

That was an allusion to Scott’s proposals to require everyone to pay federal income taxes, whether they would normally owe them or not, and to sunset all federal programs every five years. Undaunted, Scott revised his “rescue plan” (and added a 12th point for good measure) by taking out the “minimum tax on poor people” idea — but he left in the universal “sunset” proposal. Sure enough, this decision came back to bite Scott and his party right in the ass.

President Biden drew a bead on Scott’s proposal in his 2023 State of the Union address, saying, “Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans … want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I’m not saying it’s the majority.”

A good number of House Republicans let out a feral roar at these words with some shouting “Liar!” But Biden wasn’t lying, unless Scott is no longer a member of the Republican Party.

You’d think that, after this drubbing from the president, Scott would have prepared himself meticulously to answer media questions — or, better yet, taken one for the team by repudiating that part of his agenda. But no: In an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Thursday, the Florida senator took a bold step forward onto a garden rake. Gaze in awe:

Apparently Scott thought it would be enough to rebut the idea that he supported Medicare and Social Security cuts. But that isn’t what Collins accused him of; she highlighted the more radical idea of sunsetting the programs altogether. Scott then engaged in some whataboutism aimed at claims that a GOP plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant to the states represented a plan to make Medicaid “cuts” (it did, as it would have arbitrarily capping federal Medicaid payments, which would likely result in major benefit reductions). Having reminded viewers of a GOP plan nearly as unpopular as his own, the lawmaker kept babbling inanely about what “Jake Tapper said,” as if Collins would cry in shame at her colleague’s perfidy (she didn’t). It was an extended unforced error.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, McConnell trashed Scott again in an interview with Kentucky radio host Terry Meiners.

“The Republican plan, as I pointed out last fall, if we were to become the majority, there were no plans to raise taxes on half the American people or to sunset Medicare or Social Security,” McConnell said. “So it’s clearly the Rick Scott plan. It is not the Republican plan. And that’s the view of the Speaker of the House as well.”

Later Thursday, Fox News’s Bill Hemmer pressed Scott on whether he and McConnell are “cool,” and he answered, “Well, he just kicked me off a committee. So that was pretty petty.”

What makes the whole saga especially fascinating is that Scott is running for reelection next year in Florida, a state where messing with Social Security and Medicare represents a political death wish. And that’s aside from the very bad blood Scott earned from fellow Republicans across the nation who will now have to explicitly deny having anything to do with his “rescue plan.” Scott says he will “continue to push it” during his Senate campaign: “I tell people these are my ideas. Let’s start fighting over ideas.” I’m sure Florida Democrats will oblige him on that score. Perhaps he will soon defend his “ideas” on sunsetting all federal programs in an appearance at the Villages. That should go well.

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McConnell Can’t Stop Rick Scott’s Self-destructive Spree