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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Republican response shows once again that Republicans have no competing vision for America

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Honestly, the entire Republican presentation went by without offering a single moment that looked like a policy or a proposal, other than a passing mention of school choice. Instead, other than give the kind of autobiographic handwaving that fills too many of these responses (Tim Scott once worked at Chick-fil-A, and in case you were wondering, he liked his boss) the entire message was that Biden is not doing what Republicans want. Darn it. Biden might have promised to be bipartisan, but when Republicans try to stop his bills, he passes them anyway. So down with Biden.

Biden keeps doing things, even when we try to stop him. That’s the entire Republican message.

Scott may have set a record for using the word “bipartisan,” which Republicans now define as anything they initiate. For example, Scott complained that when Republicans proposed COVID-19 relief packages, many Democrats voted with them. But when Biden put up a relief bill, no Republican voted for it. This, according to Scott, means that Biden is at fault. Because apparently he’s the one that’s not being bipartisan in this example. 

The most interesting moment of Scott’s speech was when he talked to police reform and his experience as Black man. Unfortunately, Scott didn’t use this moment to show that he supported serious efforts at police reform or to sign onto the initiative Biden had just proposed. Instead, he turned the issue into a supposed showcase of just how Democrats would “rather have the issue” than a solution.

In the process of attempting to show how partisan those Democrats are, Scott looked at Biden’s call for police reform and noted that Democrats had actually filibustered a police reform package put forward by Republicans. What Scott didn’t mention is that the reason the bill got filibustered—other than the fact that it was wholly inadequate, actually gave more money to police forces, and was opposed by every major civil rights organization—was that Republicans refused to even talk to Democrats about the bill before it was written, submitted, or put up for a vote. That’s right, the prime example of bipartisanship presented in this paean to bipartisanship was a bill written completely by Republicans who refused to let Democrats so much as see it before it hit the Senate floor. And one on which Republicans promptly defeated every amendment proposed by Democrats.

What was missing from the Republican response was a response. That is, anything that looked like a competing vision for America. Scott’s speech was devoid of alternatives. It was simply a call to do nothing and call that bipartisanship. It was a defense of playing defense from a party that doesn’t have a competing vision.

Somehow, the Republican response seems to have generally left out the two issues that are animating actual Republican policy across the nation: torturing trans youth and keeping Black and brown people from voting. Which is a shame. Because the nation really needs to hear what animates the party of Tim Scott. 

Biden spent a large part of his speech calling for national unity and working together. Biden’s history in Washington shows that he means it—he won’t just extend an olive branch, he would accept a helping hand, even if that means compromise. But what Republicans are calling bipartisanship is really surrender. And neither Biden, nor the Democratic Party, are in a mood to give up. 

And if Tim Scott really believes that Democrats would “rather have the issue” of police reform than an actual solution, he can shock them and vote for the police reform bill when it hits the Senate floor. That would actually be … bipartisan.


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