I am of course just speculating, but that ^ might be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) current internal debate after Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) flailing around on Fox News this weekend.
As head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott put out an “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” last month to attempt to give Republicans some sort of safe-space to coalesce around heading into the 2022 Midterms — as the party seemingly does not have a broader legislative agenda, beyond letting the right-wing media rile the base into a frenzy over faux culture wars.
One layer of Scott’s proposal suggests that Republicans should start pushing for a “sunset” provision on federal legislation after five years, a component of the messaging proposal that’s been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike, specifically for how it could impact Social Security. Scott has also called for making low-income people pay more in taxes.
Fox News anchor John Roberts questioned Scott about his plan for the party during an interview on Sunday, asking the senator about the two most controversial aspects of his policy platform proposal.
“Two of the big points are ‘all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax,’” Roberts said. “It also says, ‘All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.’ So that would raise taxes on half of Americans and potentially sunset programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Why would you propose something like that in an election year?”
Scott shot back, calling Roberts’ presentation of the information “Democrat talking points,” despite the fact that Roberts was literally reading from Scott’s “11-Point Plan.” Roberts didn’t let him get away with it: “No, no, it’s in the plan! It’s in the plan!”
Scott tried to get philosophical in response, “But here’s the thing about reality for a second,” Scott started before Roberts interrupted: “But, senator, hang on. … It’s not a Democratic talking point! It’s in the plan!”
Scott meandered his way into an actual response, suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with Congress “every year talk(ing) about exactly how we are going to fix Medicare and Social Security,” before contradicting himself to argue that “no one that I know of wants to sunset” the programs. He then went on a weird diatribe about how “unfair” it is that poor people don’t pay enough in taxes.
“We have people that don’t — that could go to work and have figured out how to have government pay their way. That’s not right. They ought to have some skin in the game. I don’t care if it’s a dollar. We ought to all be in this together,” he said.
The conversation then went in the direction you’d expect it to go on a platform like Fox News where someone like Rick Scott is speaking human words. The senator yelled about the dangers of the “woke left” that controls “you know, the executive branch, they control a lot of our government, they control academia, they control Hollywood. Look at — we have an open border, we’ve decided we’re not going to be energy independent. We’ve got to change this. You don’t change it without having a plan,” he said.
While Roberts did push back, it’s no surprise this other kind of rhetoric was also given plenty of room to air out, as Fox News is just one prong of the right-wing media machine that’s allowing Republicans to skirt by and head into the 2022 midterms with no substantial policy platform.
I’ve written about this a bunch and it’s hard to know the true origin story of the popularity of these various issues — anti-trans bills, banning library books, Critical Race Theory obsession — that make up much of the GOP’s distraction scheme heading into November. But as outlets like Fox News and others cover these grievances — often speaking the supposed groundswell of fear and anger among the Republican voting base into existence — Republicans continue to seize on the chatter, letting outrage at school board meetings about non-serious non-problems serve as a placeholder for actual policy. (And Ted Cruz, et. al’s bombastic behavior at Judge Jackson’s SCOTUS nominee hearings last week are a key example of how much the party is clinging to this tactic.)
And it seems those in Republican leadership like McConnell may prefer this distraction tactic over whatever Scott is doing. Even after Scott released his intending-to-unify set of proposals, McConnell joined the chorus of those criticizing the strategy.
“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 earlier this month.
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