Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include further comments from an op-ed written by Sen. Rick Scott, and additional notes from previous reports
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — U.S. Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., has challenged President Joe Biden to a debate on inflation and the economy as record levels of price increases slam American consumers. The senator’s challenge comes after the president spoke about inflation and called out Scott’s proposed tax plan.
Gas prices hit historic highs recently as conflicts between Russia and Ukraine push the European Union toward pulling the plug on using Russian oil, and sanctions by the U.S. and its allies have cut the country’s economic powers. Still, inflation has been a problem since Biden took office, and it is unclear what powers the president has to directly combat it.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have spent time, and rhetoric, on blaming each other for policy mistakes that have caused inflation. Despite the disagreements of his Republican colleagues, as reported on by The Hill, Washington Post and others, Sen. Scott’s Rescue America plan says “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.”
Analyses of the plan, later shared by the White House, said those who could be taxed includes those on welfare and social security who may not currently be paying income taxes. However, Scott maintains he would not tax retired Americans.
In an op-ed titled “Hard Work, Not Freeloading” about his tax plan published in The Daily Caller, the senator said he would not raise taxes on retirees, but wanted to have Americans who “live off government handouts, even though they could be working” to pay their fair share.
Let’s be clear about what I am proposing, and what I’m not. Retirees have already paid plenty into the system. And working-class Americans are already paying into the system, whether through income tax, payroll tax, state and local taxes. You know them. They’re the people who set their alarm clocks and get up and get moving and provide for their families and make this country work! Whether they receive a tax refund or have to chip in a little more each April, they are taxpayers. My proposal wouldn’t change anything for them, but we should find ways to reduce their tax burden.
There are two categories of folks in America who do need to pay their fair share. We have a sizeable class of people in the country who live off government handouts, even though they could be working. I’m talking about able-bodied, working-age Americans. They need to contribute to the system they are benefitting from. The best way to do this is by getting a job. If they refuse to work, they need to be required to pay into the system. We also have some very wealthy people who can hire an army of lobbyists, lawyers and accountants to avoid paying their fair share. That’s wrong.Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) op-ed in The Daily Caller
To solve what he calls Biden’s inflation crisis, Scott urged Biden to resign as the solution to the country’s economic woes.
“The most effective thing Joe Biden can do to solve the inflation crisis he created is resign. He’s the problem. Getting him out of office is a quick and easy solution,” the senator said in a statement. He also accused Biden of being “unwell,” “unfit for office” and “confused.”
The back-and-forth between the president and the senator comes a day ahead of May’s Consumer Price Index release. That will show if, or how much, inflation in the U.S. has increased since hitting 8.5% in April.
Biden on Tuesday promised Americans that he was working to lower consumer prices and called inflation his top priority. NBC News reported that Biden called out Scott’s proposed 11-point plan directly in the speech over its new tax on the middle class and idea of sunsetting social security and Medicaid within five years.
These two sticking points, of the many in the plan, were what had drawn the ire of Scott’s Republican colleagues, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
“I believe inflation is our top economic challenge right now,” Biden said, according to NBC News coverage. “Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they’d rather see taxes on working American families.”
Scott’s debate challenge was issued soon after in a written statement.