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McConnell rejects Senate GOP election head Rick Scott's 2022 agenda

The minority leader said he'd be in charge if Republicans win back a majority in the chamber, not Sen. Rick Scott.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks on Capitol Hill on Feb. 15, 2022.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks Feb. 15 on Capitol Hill.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected the proposed agenda of Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the party's campaign committee chair, in a rare display of disunity among Republican leaders ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Asked Tuesday about the 11-point plan that Scott released as a blueprint for how Republicans would govern, McConnell took aim at a key provision to raise income taxes on lower-income Americans.

If the GOP gains control of the Senate next year, McConnell told reporters, "I'll be the majority leader. I'll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor."

"Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda," he said. "We would 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. That will not be part of a Republican Senate majority agenda."

A section of Scott's blueprint read: "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." Another part read: “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”

The White House, the Democratic National Committee and the party's various campaign arms have pointed to the ideas as an examples of why voters shouldn't put the GOP in charge. It was a rare move from a campaign chief that created tension between associates of Scott and McConnell, with some Republicans worrying that it will hurt the party's candidates this year.

McConnell said a potential GOP-led Senate would focus on "inflation, energy, defense, the border and crime," but he didn't offer any specific policy prescriptions.

Scott attended the weekly news conference with McConnell but left just before McConnell made the remarks about his 2022 agenda.

Top McConnell deputies sided with him over Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"I think Republican senators hope that Rick Scott would stay focused right now on the job of being the chairman of the Senate election committee," said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership team who is retiring. "I'm not for increasing anybody's income tax, whether they pay zero or they pay a lot."

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., who faces re-election this year, said all candidates will offer their own agendas.

"Every senator who's running for re-election this year is going to have their own agenda and decide what it is they want to make their campaigns about," he said before he cast doubt that a single GOP member would run on Scott's tax proposal. "I don't know of any that would include that."

Scott's plan clashes with McConnell's strategy to make the election a referendum on President Joe Biden and avoid drawing attention to the policy ideas the GOP would advance if it wins. A GOP aide speculated that Scott, like other senators, has faced pressure from donors to propose an agenda if the Republicans are put in charge.

Asked to respond to McConnell's criticism, Scott said he "absolutely" stands by his plan and that "people ought to know what we're going to do when we get a majority." He added that he will continue to support McConnell as caucus leader. 

Curt Anderson, a Republican strategist and adviser to Scott, defended his decision to release the agenda, saying Scott has a record of being "a tax cutter." He also said the income tax proposal was one of many statements Scott has made about the "kinds of things he believes Republicans should pursue to turn this country around from the devastating effects of Biden’s woke agenda."

"He’s not rigid about these ideas, and understands that no one will agree with him on everything," Anderson said in an email.