By Alex Rogers, CNN
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott dropped his proposal requiring low-income Americans to pay at least some federal income tax in his revised agenda for the country, after facing withering criticism from fellow Republicans in Washington, President Joe Biden and Democrats.
In his updated “Rescue America” platform, Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, instead proposed on Thursday that “able-bodied Americans under 60, who do not have young children or incapacitated dependents, should work.”
“We need them pulling the wagon and paying taxes, not sitting at home taking money from the government,” Scott’s revised plan said. “Currently, far too many Americans who can work are living off of the hard work of others, and have no ‘skin in the game’. Government must never again incentivize people to not work by paying them more to stay home.”
The revised proposal references a Republican belief that Congress’ expansion of unemployment benefits in 2020 and 2021 — particularly a federal weekly boost of several hundred dollars — prompted some jobless Americans to avoid returning to work because their unemployment checks were larger than their paychecks had been. Most GOP governors ended at least one of the federal programs early in an attempt to address labor shortages in their states.
Republicans have also long drawn attention to the fact that some people earn too little to pay federal income taxes. Most of them, however, still pay other levies, including sales and payroll taxes.
Scott’s previous proposal had said: “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”
At a March news conference, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell knocked down Scott’s idea as he tried to shift the focus of the 2022 midterm elections back to Democrats’ control of Washington.
“Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda,” the Kentucky Republican said. “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.”
Scott’s previous plan, which would have raised taxes on about 40% of Americans, has become a Democratic talking point since it was first unveiled in February.
Democrats noted that forcing all Americans to pay some income tax would mean a tax increase for tens of millions of people. The Americans who don’t pay federal income tax — 75 million households in 2022, about 42% of the total, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center think tank — include both jobless and employed people who don’t earn enough money to have to file tax returns; people who are eligible for refundable tax credits that exceed what they would otherwise owe in income tax; and some retirees, people with disabilities and stay-at-home parents.
The President called attention to Scott’s plan in a speech on the economy in mid-May, contrasting it with the Democrats’ proposals to raise taxes on billionaires and corporations and provide more support for working families. Biden also argued that Scott’s plan would put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “on the chopping block” every five years.
Emilie Simons, a White House spokeswoman, said Thursday that Scott’s latest proposal is “a vague attempt at a clarification,” and chided the senator for saying there had been “confusion” around the original provision.
“If he made a mistake, he should say so rather than saying there was ‘confusion’ and releasing a vague attempt at a clarification,” said Simons. “If he has a new plan, he should put out the specifics of whose taxes would go up and by how much. We would welcome a public debate on the specifics.”
Asked about raising income taxes, Scott previously told CNN that he wanted a “fair” tax system and tried portraying his proposal as a tax increase on the wealthy, rather than the poor.
“My focus is to make sure that it’s fair,” he said. “I want to make people’s taxes lower, but at the same time, you got billionaires out there that don’t pay income tax.”
Scott also pushed back on McConnell’s remarks. He said he wanted “a conservation about able-bodied Americans who are living off of government programs instead of working” and blamed Democrats for misleading the public about his plan.
Scott’s 11-point plan, which is a range of fiscally conservative and Trumpian proposals, also includes cutting the federal government workforce by 25% in five years and completing a wall on the US-Mexico border and naming it after the former President Donald Trump
The plan was intended to jump-start a policy discussion as the 2022 national political environment favors Republicans and their chances to win back control of both chambers of Congress.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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CNN’s Steve Contorno, Tami Luhby and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.