Leading the Republican response to Joe Biden’s address to Congress, Senator Tim Scott – the GOP’s only Black senator – insisted that the US is not a racist country after describing discrimination he experienced.
He said he has been pulled over while driving “for no reason,” followed in stores while shopping, and has been called an “Uncle Tom” and the n-word, including by liberals.
“I know firsthand our healing is not finished,” he said in remarks immediately following the president’s speech. “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.”
The senator’s rebuttal criticised Mr Biden for what he claims are failures to live up to his pledge to “lower the temperature” and “govern for all Americans” as he entered office. The administration has centred racial equity across federal agencies to address long-standing systemic injustices and the nation’s deep-rooted systemic racism.
He said that “race is not a political weapon to settle every issue like one side wants” as he argued that Democrats have sought to address injustice for political reasons.
“Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership,” Mr Scott said as he opened his remarks.
“But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes,” he added, claiming that the president’s ambitious domestic agenda – which has widespread popular support among most Americans – is “puling us further and further apart.”
Mr Scott also spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention supporting Donald Trump’s re-election.
In his remarks on Wednesday, he falsely claimed that Mr Biden “inherited a tide that had already turned” on Covid-19, despite thousands of daily deaths from the virus in January, with limited vaccine distribution infrastructure established by the previous administration.
He criticised Democratic lawmakers for wanting to “go it alone” on coronavirus relief efforts in 2020, after the Democratically controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that was uniformly dismissed by Senate Republicans. He noted that Congress passed five bipartisan coronavirus relief packages under the previous administration, but Congress passed Mr Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan without any Republican votes.
The senator also criticised Mr Biden’s infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan as a “partisan wishlist” for “big government waste” in spending.
He said that Mr Biden’s American Families Plan – which could provide federal support for childcare and provide universal pre-kindergarten education for every American child – would “put Washington even more in the middle of your life from the cradle to college.”
Increased taxes on the nation’s wealthiest households and efforts to close loopholes that allow corporations and Americans earning more than $1m through investments would kill jobs, lower wages and shrink the economy, he claimed, reviving familiar GOP opposition to increased spending plans for federal safety net programmes for the most vulnerable households.
He also defended Georgia’s recently passed voting restrictions, the subject of lawsuits alleging racial discrimination, and falsely claimed that it is easier to vote in the state than in New York.
Republican defence of the new law also follows White House-backed efforts to renew the landmark civil rights era Voting Rights Act, which Republicans have refused to pick up, as well as the voting rights-expanding For The People Act.
Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, the senator drafted legislation to overhaul policing, which languished in the Senate.
He is now leading GOP efforts to work on a bipartisan police reform bill, among few areas of compromise among the parties, following House Democrats’ passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
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