Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., painted President Joe Biden as having broken promises on seeking 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,” Scott added.
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 roughly $4 trillion in spending between them — as containing 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 of Biden’s family plan that it 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 earlier address, Biden pitched each package as necessary to keep up with China and other world powers. After praising Republicans for presenting a nearly $600 billion infrastructure proposal, Biden 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 believed congressional Republicans are opposing Biden as much as possible so far, compared to 39 percent who felt they were looking for common ground with Biden. Meanwhile, 58 percent said they believed Biden is trying to work with congressional Republicans, compared to 42 percent who said they believed 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 received his highest marks in that 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, as just 33 percent of adults approved of it.
As it was a major focus of Biden’s speech, Scott, the Senate’s lone Black Republican and one of just three Black senators, spent a significant portion of his response addressing racial issues.
“Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race,” he said. “I have experienced the pain of discrimination.”
“I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason,” Scott added. “To be followed around a store while I”m shopping.”
He criticized Democrats for blocking his efforts at police reform last year, though he said he is “hopeful” new negotiations “will be different.” A major hang up between the parties is over qualified immunity for police officers, which Republicans have resisted changing.
Scott also made note of the Republican Party’s strained relationship with corporate America when discussing race.
“From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress,” he said. “By doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal. You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.”
He then said criticism of Georgia’s recent voting law and other voting restrictions were misguided, and claimed the new Georgia law provides a more liberal voting climate than Democratic-run states like New York.
New York has longstanding policies that advocates say are anti-voter. But it, like other blue states Republicans have referenced, have moved in recent years to remove barriers, while states like Georgia and Texas are sliding in the opposite direction, as experts told NBC News earlier this year.
Like Biden, Scott sought to make 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 overseeing 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 2020 election. As a Republican Senate aide told NBC News: “It’s not really a unified front against him.”
That’s 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 on Wednesday.
In a memo to members sent 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 everything from national unity, masks, infrastructure, 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.”