WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.
“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 came 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.
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 has used the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress to vow that “America is not a racist country.”
Scott, the only Black Republican senator, seized on Biden’s calls earlier in the evening that passage of major police reform could help stamp out institutional racism nationwide. Scott countered that “today, kids are being taught the color of their skin defines them again. If they look a certain way, they’re the oppressor.”
He said Biden and other top Democrats have begun crying racism too frequently when it comes to unrelated policy disputes, saying “race is not a political weapon to settle every issue.” He bristled at Democratic suggestions that voting rights restrictions passed by GOP-controlled legislatures around the country were meant to keep minority Americans from casting ballots.