Whatever you think of Florida’s junior U.S. Senator Rick Scott, you have to admit the guy is very persistent. A year ago, without (so far as I can tell) anyone asking him to do so, Scott released a long, violently worded “11-Point Plan to Rescue America.” It combined MAGA culture-war themes, Goldwater-era fiscal policies, and hostility to government. And since Scott chaired the GOP’s Senate campaign arm for 2022, delighted Democrats attributed this document to his troops.
An annoyed Mitch McConnell disavowed the plan with Scott standing just a few feet away, specifically citing proposals to make everyone pay income taxes and to sunset all federal laws (including Social Security and Medicare) every five years. Scott promptly republished his “rescue plan” to remove the bit about income taxes, but he left in the part about Congress continually needing to renew all federal laws, along with some fresh craziness. Scott finally stopped talking about his plan after his leadership challenge to McConnell failed and he decided not to pursue a rumored 2024 presidential bid. But Washington did not forget: In his 2023 State of the Union address, Joe Biden hung Scott’s willingness to let retirement programs die around the necks of his entire party.
McConnell disavowed it all again, and after stonewalling and trying to change the subject and denying that “sunsetting” meant “sunsetting,” Scott finally relented on Friday. CNN reports:
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has revised his much-maligned proposal to sunset all federal programs in five years, after absorbing weeks of criticism from Democrats and even his own party, by adding an exemption for Medicare and Social Security.
The updated version of Scott’s “Rescue America” plan now says: “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years, with specific exceptions of Social Security, Medicare, national security, veterans benefits, and other essential services.”
The previous version of the proposal included no such exemption and instead declared: “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”
So after complicating the lives of every Republican politician in the country and reminding the country the GOP cannot be trusted with custody of wildly popular federal retirement programs, Scott’s ideological bender is over, right? Not so fast. The universal sunset proposal, as revised, would still entail the end of a vast number of federal programs and laws. In the latter category are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and all those immigration and criminal-justice laws politicians like Scott want to enforce ruthlessly, which would die every five years in hopes of being reborn. Environmental laws would all lapse. Our hard-earned and very limited gun-regulation and campaign-finance laws would go away and face a tough fight to come back from the grave. It’s a fundamentally stupid and lazy idea, and every time Scott concedes it’s stupid for one law or program, other examples will arise.
But the five-year-sunset idea is by no means the only howler in Scott’s serially revised “rescue plan.” There’s an equally bonehead 12-year “term limit” on non-Defense federal employment. That would cause tremendous chaos (or more likely, just shift experienced employees to contractor status). There’s a proposal to “move most Government agencies out of Washington and into the real world.” That would be incredibly costly and would turn federal agencies into far-flung patronage empires. A proposal to cut funding and staffing of the IRS in half would guarantee lower revenue collections and increase the federal debt and deficits Scott purports to abhor. And Scott takes anti-wokeness to a whole new level, abolishing any sort of diversity training throughout the federal government and even banning the collection of racial and ethnic data by the Census Bureau.
The whole “rescue plan” is a combination of half-baked “ideas” and abrasive ultra-MAGA demagoguery. (At one point, Scott shouts at the reader: “Facts are facts, the earth is round, the sun is hot, there are two genders, and abortion stops a beating heart. To say otherwise is to deny science.”) Unless the GOP wants to keep getting associated with its residual nuttiness, Republicans need to speak out against the plan and its author. Rick Scott has done a lot of damage to his party, and his “thinking” is a gift to Democrats that keeps on giving.
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