Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., painted President Joe Biden as having broken his promises to seek to unify the country and slammed Democratic policymaking in his response to Biden’s first address to Congress.
“Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words,” Scott said. “But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership. He promised to unite a nation. To lower the temperature. To govern for all Americans, no matter how we voted.
“But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further apart,” he said.
Scott began by criticizing Biden and Democrats for having advanced the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package without any Republican support and then blasted his proposed infrastructure and family plans — which combined total about $4 trillion in spending — saying it including liberal “wish-list” items that go far beyond what is needed.
“Republicans support everything you think of when you think of ‘infrastructure,'” Scott said, adding that Biden’s family plan amounts to “even more taxing, even more spending, to put Washington even more in the middle of your life — from cradle to college.”
In his address earlier, Biden pitched each package as necessary to keep up with China and other world powers. After he praised Republicans for presenting a nearly $600 billion infrastructure proposal, he said, “We welcome ideas — but the rest of the world isn’t waiting for us.”
“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Biden, who made appeals to Republicans in his address. “We can’t be so busy competing with each other that we forget the competition is with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.”
When it comes to working with the other party, a new CBS/YouGov poll found that 61 percent of American adults say congressional Republicans are opposing Biden as much as possible, compared to 39 percent who say they are looking for common ground with Biden. Meanwhile, 58 percent say they believe Biden is trying to work with congressional Republicans, compared to 42 percent who say they believe he is not.
Elsewhere, an NBC News poll found that 52 percent of U.S. adults believe Biden is doing a good job when it comes to uniting the country. Biden got his highest marks in the poll for his handling of the pandemic, which 69 percent of respondents approve of. His lowest marks came for his handling of the influx of migrants at the southern border with Mexico, which just 33 percent of adults approve of.
Because racial issues were a major focus of Biden’s speech, Scott, the Senate’s lone Black Republican and one of just three Black senators, spent a significant part of his response addressing them.
“Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race,” he said.
“I have experienced the pain of discrimination,” he added. “I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around a store while I’m shopping.”
He criticized Democrats for blocking his efforts for police reform last year, but he said he is “hopeful” that new negotiations will be different. A major hang-up between the parties is qualified immunity for police officers, which Republicans have resisted changing.
Scott also made note of the Republican Party’s strained relationship with corporate America as he was discussing race.
“From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal,” he said. “You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.”
He said criticism of Georgia’s recent voting law and other voting restrictions was misguided and claimed that the new Georgia law promotes a more liberal voting climate than in Democratic-run states like New York.
New York has long-standing policies that advocates say are anti-voter. But it, like other blue states Republicans have referred to, has moved in recent years to remove barriers, while states like Georgia and Texas are sliding in the opposite direction, as experts said this year.
Like Biden, Scott made a call for Democrats and Republicans and people of all backgrounds to drop the pitchforks aimed at one another.
“We are not adversaries,” he said. “We are family. We are all in this together. And we get to live in the greatest country on Earth.”
Scott made just one passing mention of the Trump administration, which he praised for having overseen the development of vaccines.
During much of Biden’s first 100 days, the president himself was not much of a target for Republicans, who have been focused on culture war issues and the aftermath of the election. As a Republican Senate aide said, “It’s not really a unified front against him.”
That has changed a bit in recent days, with Republicans zeroing in on Biden as he was set to hit his 100th day in office and deliver his address — capped by Scott’s response.
In a memo sent to members Wednesday, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., chair of the Republican Study Committee, laid out how Republicans should go after Biden, his administration and his policies — touching on topics from national unity, masks and infrastructure to the border, vaccines and voting.
“And remember this: With President Biden, what you see is NOT what you get,” the memo read. “We simply can’t trust what he says is really going to happen.”