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A year too late, Rick Scott tweaks his far-right policy blueprint

It took a year, but Rick Scott finally tweaked his far-right blueprint. That does not, however, fully resolve the larger controversy.


It was a year ago this week when Sen. Rick Scott, ignoring his GOP colleagues’ wishes, unveiled a far-right policy agenda. No one was more pleased than Democrats, who eagerly noted that the Florida Republican’s blueprint included tax hikes on tens of millions of working-class Americans, though Scott later edited that part out of his plan.

He did not, however, change the part of his agenda related to so-called sunsets.

As the blueprint read, the Floridian wrote that under his vision, “all federal legislation” would sunset — or put another way, expire — in five years. “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” he added.

The New York Times noted this week that Democrats “scoured the document, assuming there would be an asterisk or some sort of escape hatch for Mr. Scott exempting popular programs like Medicare and Social Security. They found none.”

And so, President Joe Biden used Scott’s regressive idea as an example of misguided Republican thinking in his recent State of the Union address. What followed was an unexpected political dispute, with Democrats pointing to Scott’s plan, Republicans distancing themselves from Scott’s plan, and Scott himself insisting that his plan had merit.

At least, that was the senator’s approach. As NBC News reported, he has decided to switch gears a bit.

Facing criticism from Democrats and frustration from Republicans, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., has amended his controversial “Rescue America” plan that called for all federal legislation to sunset. The plan now lists “specific exceptions of Social Security, Medicare, national security, veterans benefits, and other essential services.”

For good measure, the new language also includes this gem in boldface: Note to President Biden, Sen. Schumer, and Sen. McConnell — As you know, this was never intended to apply to Social Security, Medicare, or the US Navy.”

We’ll probably never know for sure exactly what prompted Scott to finally reverse course and tweak the text, though Biden’s address initiated a public conversation that the Florida Republican clearly struggled with. For two weeks, not only did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly denounce Scott’s idea, but even Donald Trump sent an unsubtle shot across Scott’s bow.

The new edits suggest that Scott now realizes he was losing the fight and it was time to retreat.

But this doesn’t entirely settle the matter. For one thing, it’s quite likely that a whole lot of Republicans are going to ask Scott, “You couldn’t have listened to our concerns and done this last year? You had to hand Democrats a piñata for 12 months?”

For another, the fact that Scott now supports exceptions for “essential services” is notable, but it raises related questions. National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru noted, for example, that under the GOP senator’s vision, everything from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to federal minimum wage laws to laws against child pornography would all be scheduled to disappear every five years unless Congress reapproved them.

All of which creates a fairly obvious question for Scott: Are there any other edits you’d like to make, Senator?