- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2022

Republicans eager to retake control of the House and Senate in November have different ideas about how to win voters, and the divide is causing party tension that has spilled into public view.

The clash centers around Sen. Rick Scott’s “11 point plan to rescue America,” which he introduced this month. He is promoting the plan in digital and television advertisements. 

Mr. Scott runs the Senate Republican Party‘s campaign arm, but his endorsement of a detailed agenda clashes with other ideas in the party. Senate Republican leaders say they want to campaign against the failures of the Biden administration, not publicize a legislative game plan that Democrats could distort to discourage voters.

Republicans say two of Mr. Scott’s proposals are easy fodder for Democrats. 

Mr. Scott’s plan calls for taxes at all income levels, which means Americans who bring in too little to pay federal taxes — nearly half of all income earners, including retirees — would have a tax increase.

The plan also calls for a five-year limit to all laws, which would require Congress and the White House to reauthorize the entire federal government, including Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Scott said the proposal aims at government reform and debt reduction.

“If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” Mr. Scott writes in his pitch. 

Democratic operatives were delighted to showcase Mr. Scott’s playbook, just as Republican leaders feared.

“Raise taxes on half of Americans, including seniors and working families,” White House spokesman Mike Gwin tweeted. “Literally nothing on how to lower prices for working families.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, privately rebuked Mr. Scott over the rogue agenda at a meeting in his Capitol office Monday night. The division burst into the open Tuesday at a Senate Republican leadership press conference when a reporter asked Mr. McConnell what he thought about Mr. Scott’s plan.

“I’ll decide, in consultation with my members, what to put on the floor,” Mr. McConnell told reporters about his plans if he wins back the gavel. 

Mr. Scott, who was standing behind Mr. McConnell with the other Republican leaders, walked away from the press conference.

Mr. McConnell went on to trash Mr. Scott’s pitch to require Americans at all income levels to pay at least some tax and Mr. Scott’s plan to sunset all federal laws after five years.

“Let me tell you what will not be a part of our agenda,” Mr. McConnell said. “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. That will not be part of a Republican Senate majority agenda. We will focus instead on what the American people are concerned about: inflation, energy defense, the border and crime.”

Mr. McConnell’s public and thorough dismissal of Mr. Scott’s agenda underscores the party’s divide ahead of the November elections.

The minority leader has indicated that he won’t outline a specific agenda but will campaign against the Biden administration and congressional Democrats.

Democrats’ poll numbers are sinking after they failed to pass a far-left agenda and endorsed unpopular policies such as defunding the police, ending the use of fossil fuels and decreasing border security. 

In January, Mr. McConnell told reporters who asked what agenda he would bring to the floor if Republicans win the Senate majority. “That is a very good question, and I’ll let you know when we take it back,” the minority leader said.

His strategy of campaigning against Democrats without proposing an agenda has left Republicans vulnerable.

“I did not anticipate that there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done,” Mr. Biden said during a recent press conference. “Think about this. What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove, the political strategist credited with orchestrating George W. Bush’s two White House wins, called on Republicans to be specific. 

“Bashing Mr. Biden’s policies and failures and promising to check and balance him will likely produce a Republican midterm victory, but pairing that with a common-sense conservative agenda will yield a bigger triumph,” Mr. Rove wrote.

Mr. McConnell has long downplayed the importance of an agenda when Democrats face political headwinds, but House Republicans have a different attitude and are formulating an agenda one committee at a time.

The agenda isn’t specific yet, but Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said he is committed to telling voters how Republicans would run the House.

“You should be truthful to the American public,” Mr. McCarthy told Breitbart News in January. “What would you do with the majority?”

Mr. McConnell and Mr. McCarthy are aligned on border security, reducing crime and ending Mr. Biden’s spending spree.

A top party aide told The Washington Times that Republicans “will focus on the issues that Americans really care about like inflation, crime, energy and finding issues that unite us and are very clearly at the top of mind for Americans who are dissatisfied with the way things are going right now, especially with the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress.”

Mr. Scott, meanwhile, has not backed down from promoting his 11-point plan. Television ads continue to air, and the website promoting the plan remains operating. Last weekend, the Florida Republican promoted his proposal to the party’s enthusiastic base at the influential Conservative Political Action Conference.

The proposal attacks liberal spending and social policies, calls for an end to disclosing race or ethnicity on government forms and requires children in public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It proposes increased penalties for theft and other crimes, and finishing the wall on the border with Mexico and naming it after former President Donald Trump.

“It’s going to be ridiculed by the left, mocked by Washington insiders and strike fear in the hearts of some Republicans,” Mr. Scott said. “If this plan doesn’t scare Washington, we certainly haven’t aimed high enough. And based on the way Democrats are attacking me this week, I said we’re here to say we hit the bull’s-eye.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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