Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina will deliver the GOP rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening, spotlighting a unique voice in the party whose profile is on the rise as he leads congressional Republicans’ negotiations on police reform.
“Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people,” Scott will say in his remarks, according to excerpts released ahead of the address.
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, was selected by his party’s leadership to deliver their response, which will give him a prominent national platform to speak to the country and the opportunity to draw a contrast between the GOP and Biden’s agenda.
Scott is expected to credit the Trump administration with the development of effective vaccines to address Covid-19 and cite school closures during the pandemic as a key issue.
“Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump Administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding,” he will say, according to the excerpts. “So why do we feel so divided and anxious?”
“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future,” he will say, according to the excerpts, “Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe.”
The rebuttal speech serves as a chance for the party not in control of the White House to offer up a critique of the administration and an alternative vision for the country while highlighting a rising star in the party.
Ahead of his remarks, Scott said that his goal is “just to be myself and to share with the country what I think the priorities are and how we can do those priorities together as opposed to not.”
Scott has served in the Senate since 2013 and previously served in the House of Representatives representing his state’s 1st Congressional District.
Biden was formally invited to speak to Congress by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wrote in a letter earlier this month to the President that she was extending the invitation so he could “share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment.”
Scott at the center of policing overhaul talks
Scott has spoken in the past in personal and emotional terms about his life experience and how he has faced unfair police scrutiny. In 2016, he gave an impassioned, deeply personal series of speeches on the Senate floor detailing his experience as a Black man in America.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, he drafted legislation aimed at overhauling policing, an effort that ultimately failed on the Senate floor. Now he’s at the center of a new bipartisan effort.
Scott’s discussions over a bipartisan Senate bill overhauling policing with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, the author of the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, have intensified in recent weeks.
Their goal remains crafting a compromise bill, according to a source familiar with the talks.
A new political environment in a non-election year and an increasing sense of urgency spurred by a number of police shooting deaths across the country have given this effort a better chance of bipartisan success. But key sticking points remain — a challenge that will put the ability of the lead negotiators to forge compromise to the test.
On Wednesday ahead of his speech, Scott agave an update on the discussions over a bill to overhaul policing, saying that they are making progress. “We’ll see how my friends on the other side come together in the next few days,” he said.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.