Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, a leading black conservative and rising Republican star, will deliver his party’s official rebuttal to President Biden’s joint address to Congress next week.
Mr Scott was chosen for the task by his party’s top Congressional leaders, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, at a time when Republicans seek to extend their appeal to non-white groups who have traditionally voted Democrat. In a party still divided over the legacy of former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Scott is also a rare figure capable of uniting competing factions.
“He is one of the most inspiring and unifying leaders in our country,” McConnell said in a statement announcing the decision Thursday. “As Senator Scott likes to say, he is living his mother’s American dream and has dedicated his career to creating more opportunities for our fellow citizens who need them most. No one is better at explaining why far left policies fail American workers. “
Mr Biden is expected to use much of his speech, the first before Congress since his inauguration, to garner public support for his multibillion-dollar jobs and infrastructure projects. Republicans fiercely oppose proposals as too expensive and too intrusive, and it will be up to Mr. Scott to make their case.
In his own statement, Scott said he would present an “optimistic vision” for the country focused on economic growth and “empowering working families”.
The task is notoriously difficult, with a nationally televised format that often results in stilted remarks or memorable blunders. But it also helped boost the national notoriety of emerging politicians from both parties, including Mr Biden when he was still in the Senate decades ago. (Mr. Scott also had a prime spot at last year’s Republican National Convention.)
The 55-year-old senator has a remarkable personal history. He was raised by a single mother in Charleston, SC, and led the way through state politics in a party where most of the other members are white. He first won a House seat amid the 2010 Tea Party wave and was appointed to the Senate three years later.
His work in Congress has focused primarily on economic development and tax issues. His plan to create opportunity zones to entice businesses to invest in economically struggling areas has become a centerpiece of Republicans’ $ 1.5 trillion tax cut bill.
Mr. Scott is arguably his party’s main voice on race matters. When the nation erupted in protest last summer after the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis policeman, it was Mr. Scott who stepped in to draft a Republican proposal to push the forces police force to eliminate use. of excessive force and racial profiling in their ranks.
Democrats in the Senate who called for more aggressive federal intervention then killed the bill. But as he prepares for his speech next Wednesday, Mr Scott is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who recently revived discussions on a police bill and hope to steer Congress towards a compromise measure. .
Scott said on Wednesday the two sides were “on the brink” of a compromise, even though major political and ideological hurdles remained.