Another chapter in the saga of Mitch and Rick was written on Thursday.
Days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly rebuked Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s detailed plan for what Republicans would (or could) do if they won the majority this fall, Scott hit back in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled: “Why I’m Defying Beltway Cowardice.”
Here’s one key bit from the piece:
“If we have no bigger plan than to be a speed bump on the road to socialism, we don’t deserve to govern. Most Republicans in Congress agree, but many live in fear of speaking the truth in Washington. If you do, the Democrats will attack you and use it against you. Therefore, they tell us, it’s best to keep your head down, vote as directed, and be quiet. …
… I’ve been told there are unwritten rules in Washington about what you can and cannot say. You can’t tell the public that Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt. You can’t talk about term limits, because, while voters want them, nobody in Washington does. You can’t talk about balancing the budget or shrinking the debt.”
Now, McConnell is never named in the op-ed; Scott only criticizes Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer by name. But there is NO question about who Scott’s real target is here.
Let’s go back to late February when Scott – somewhat out of the blue – released an 11-point plan “to rescue America.” It proposed many things, including: 1) Finishing the southern border wall and naming it after former President Donald Trump 2) Requiring every American to pay income taxes 3) Subjecting all members of Congress to a 12-year term limit and 4) Enacting a sunset provision for all federal legislation five years after it passes.
The income tax proposal in particular drew national headlines as roughly half of Americans currently do not pay income taxes because their taxable income doesn’t meet a minimum threshold.
McConnell, when asked earlier this week about Scott’s proposals, was blunt. “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,” McConnell said. “That will not be a part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.”
Just in case there was any confusion about who would be in charge, McConnell noted this: “If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader, I’ll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor.”
McConnell has been adamant that the best strategy for Republicans hoping to win the majority in November is to keep the focus solely on President Joe Biden and the Democrats who control Congress. Asked earlier this year what the Republican agenda will be if the party retakes the majority, McConnell responded: “That is a very good question and I’ll let you know when we take it back.”
The situation was – and is – all the more awkward because Scott is a member of Republican leadership as chairman of the party’s Senate campaign arm. And that fact makes Scott’s willingness to double down on a plan that McConnell clearly detests a striking example of their dueling agendas.
McConnell is solely focused on doing whatever it takes to net the single seat Republicans need to make him majority leader again. (That effort was dealt a blow Thursday when Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey announced he would not run for Senate.)
Scott has larger ambitions. A former governor of Florida, Scott is regularly mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2024 or 2028. And it’s clear that he wants to position himself as an outsider and a renegade in Washington – someone willing to speak hard truths to Democrats and Republicans.
“There will be many more attacks on me and this plan from careerists in Washington, who personally profit while ruining this country,” Scott wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Bring it on. The American people are fed up, and they will show that at the ballot box this November.”
Over you to, Mitch!