WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Scott credited former President Donald Trump and Republicans on Wednesday with creating “a joyful springtime for our nation,” using his party's official response to President Joe Biden's first address to Congress to say it was the GOP that bolstered the economy and began to tame the pandemic.
Excerpts of Biden's speech released by the White House showed the new president striking an optimistic tone, declaring that the U.S. is “turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity." Excerpts of Scott's remarks showed that he was attempting to ascribe the turnaround to the GOP.
“This should be a joyful springtime for our nation,” said Scott, R-S.C., citing the Trump administration's role in helping spur vaccine development and beginning a revival of the staggered economy. “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run!”
Biden’s speech comes three months into a presidency that’s seen Republicans oppose his initial major initiatives — aimed at combatting the deadly virus and spurring the economy — as costly, unnecessary expansions of government. They’ve repeatedly accused him of abandoning his campaign pledge to seek bipartisan compromises.
The address also comes as Scott, the only Black GOP senator, has found a spotlight leading his party in a bipartisan effort to overhaul police procedures. That drive was prompted by last May’s slaying of George Floyd, a Black man, and energized anew by this month’s conviction of a white former Minneapolis police officer for the killing.
In his remarks Wednesday, Scott cited the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, the government drive to help accelerate vaccine development, plus a string of bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills last year that dispersed trillions of dollars in aid to businesses, state governments and individuals.
“So why do we feel so divided and anxious?" Scott said. “A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy-laden."
Scott also criticized many school systems' decisions to halt or limit in-person classes during the pandemic as a safety measure. Those closures, which were recommended by many public health officials, have drawn fire from Republicans as an excessive overreaction and become part of the GOP's culture war with Democrats.
“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future,” Scott said. He said that private and religious schools had reopened and called the closures “the clearest case for school choice in our lifetimes.”
Scott cited low unemployment rates for minorities before the pandemic struck last year, calling it “the most inclusive economy in my lifetime." He also praised GOP efforts including tax breaks to encourage business investments in low-income communities.
“Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams," he said, echoing the GOP's oft-repeated theme that Democrats are pushing far-left plans. “It will come from you — the American people.”
Scott, who usually maintains a low profile, has long embraced themes of opportunity and a cheerful optimism that were conservative calling cards during the Reagan era.
Those messages could make Scott a positive messenger for the GOP in the 2022 election campaigns, when the party has high hopes of winning control of the House and perhaps the Senate.
First elected to the House in 2010 and a senator since 2013, he himself is strongly favored to be reelected next year.
Scott, 55, has spoken publicly about frequently being pulled over while driving by police officers and the anger and humiliation he has felt.
He at times called out Trump in measured tones over some of his racially offensive broadsides. Yet he’s remained a strong supporter of the former president and has retained strong backing across the GOP.
Biden held early, brief talks with GOP lawmakers over his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, but he dismissed their offer as inadequate and pushed the package through Congress over unanimous Republican opposition.
The same pattern seems to be developing over his $2.3 trillion proposal to build infrastructure projects, and perhaps his $1.8 trillion plan for families and education as well.