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Republican Sen. Tim Scott Will Deliver GOP Response To Biden Address

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will give the Republican response to President Biden's joint address to Congress on Wednesday.
Al Drago
AFP via Getty Images
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will give the Republican response to President Biden's joint address to Congress on Wednesday.

Updated April 28, 2021 at 7:00 PM ET

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will deliver the Republican response to President Biden's address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, aiming to highlight the contrast between Biden's agenda and the GOP message.

Scott is expected to use his address to celebrate former President Donald Trump for the gains the nation has been making on COVID-19 vaccinations.

"This administration inherited a tide that had already turned," Scott will say, according to excerpts of his remarks. "The coronavirus is on the run! Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines."

Scott also plans to criticize the Biden administration for COVID-19 restrictions, while drawing a contrast between Biden's agenda and that of the GOP.

"Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future. Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries' did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe," he will say, according to his prepared remarks.

"Our best future won't come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams," Scott is expected to say. "It will come from you — the American people."

Scott, 55, is the lone Black Republican in the Senate. When it was announced that he would deliver the GOP rebuttal to Biden's address, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell heralded him as one of the party's clearest voices on the need for Republican policies.

"As Sen. Scott likes to say, he is living his mother's American dream, and he has dedicated his career to creating more opportunity for our fellow citizens who need it most. Nobody is better at communicating why far-left policies fail working Americans," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.

Scott has become central to discussions about possible policing legislation — a position of renewed importance in the wake of former Minneapolis police officer Derek's Chauvin's conviction last week for the death of George Floyd.

"We face serious challenges on multiple fronts, but I am as confident as I have ever been in the promise and potential of America," Scott said in a statement when it was announced he would provide the GOP response. "I look forward to having an honest conversation with the American people and sharing Republicans' optimistic vision for expanding opportunity and empowering working families."

In theory, delivering the opposing party's response is a high honor. But in practice, many who've been tasked with the role in recent years have found their political growth stunted after the highly watched event.

While the speaking slot is inarguably an opportunity for a politician to introduce themselves to a wider audience and curry favor with party leadership, the brighter spotlight — with visuals that are tough to compare to a congressional address — often leads to harsher scrutiny, sometimes outweighing the benefits.

Scott follows in the footsteps of other Republican responders, including former congressman and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

But Scott — a Black Republican from the Deep South, who gave a notable speech at last year's Republican National Convention — has long maneuvered contradicting expectations.

And he may have little to lose politically. Scott has said his2022 reelection bid will be his last political race.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.

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