Rick Scott revises plan for more people to pay income tax after bipartisan criticism

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U.S. Sen Rick Scott on Thursday released a revised version of his plan to “Rescue America,” backing down from his proposal that would require all Americans to pay “some income tax,” an ambiguous statement that suggested imposing new taxes on millions of people currently making too little money or seniors living solely on Social Security.

In a video accompanying the announcement, Scott said that portion of the plan was “poorly worded,” which “enabled the establishment from both parties in Washington to twist it into campaign-style attack fodder.”

“What I was trying to say is that every American needs to pull their weight,” said Scott, wearing his trademark Navy ball cap. “Able-bodied Americans under 60 should work. We need them pulling the wagon and paying taxes, not sitting at home taking money from the government.”

While saying a work requirement was his original intention, Scott’s news release, which came from his political arm, also said the change was made “following feedback and suggestions from Americans around the country.” The new bullet point specifically says that able-bodied people under 60 “who do not have young children or incapacitated dependents” should work.

Scott, a former Florida governor, current leader of the Senate Republicans’ campaign operation and a possible 2024 presidential candidate, originally released his 11-point plan in February to fill what he said was a policy void of what Senate Republicans stand for.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has rebuked it.

“If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader,” he told reporters in March. “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people.”

Democrats, who otherwise face strong political headwinds in the midterms, have also seized on the plan, trying to tie other Republicans to his ideas.

“Just yesterday, Rick Scott said he wouldn’t apologize for his plan to raise taxes on working families,” Grant Fox, a Florida Democratic Party spokesperson, said in a statement. “Instead of focusing on lowering the cost of living, Republicans like Rick Scott and Marco Rubio are pursuing a disastrous agenda at Floridians’ expense.”

Rubio, though, like most other Republicans, has declined to back the specifics of Scott’s plan, with his campaign telling PolitiFact in March that he “does not support raising taxes.”

Brain Ballard, a powerful lobbyist and longtime Scott ally, said Thursday’s clarification was the right move.

“There’s no more anti-tax increase Republican that I know than Rick Scott,” he said. “Making sure there’s no misunderstanding of his position is the smart thing to do.”

In addition to the change regarding income tax, Scott also added a 12th point to the plan that pitches other tax-related changes. The news release hinted at another section still to come “combatting the growing influence of Communist China.”

Besides the income tax portion, another main source of controversy has been Scott’s proposal that all federal laws should be re-passed every five years to stay in place, which Democrats and McConnell alike have said would threaten Social Security and Medicare. That portion was not changed Thursday.

Chris Hartline, spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Scott’s campaign, said Scott is not considering making revisions to that piece. He added that “there’s no reason to believe” programs like Social Security would end unless members of Congress decided not to vote for them again.