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Republican Sen. Rick Scott On Why He Opposes Biden's COVID-19 Relief Package

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Democrats control the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The GOP is already busy trying to figure out how to take all three back. They have to wait on the White House. Next shot won't come, of course, until 2024. But that leaves the challenge of trying to flip the House and the Senate in 2022, next year. One man with a key role on the Senate side is Rick Scott. He's the junior senator from Florida. And he is chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is devoted to helping Republicans win. Senator Scott joins me now.

Senator, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Glad to have you with us.

RICK SCOTT: It's nice to be with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So you sent a letter yesterday in your role as NRSC chair in which you announced, quote, "the Republican civil war is now canceled." Let's start there. Explain what you mean.

SCOTT: Well, I think what's really important is we focus on the future. I've had four statewide races. I've had one primary and three generals. And the reason I won is I focused on where I was going and not about the past. And I think it's important that we focus on what Americans care about. So I think what's important is we talk about the issues. And I think the Biden administration is actually helping us by not securing the border, you know, not getting schools open. The spending is not going to end up very popular when people see what's in the bill.

KELLY: Sorry. Just when you say what's in the bill, you're talking about the COVID relief bill?

SCOTT: Yeah. So if you look at in the COVID relief bill, all of us would love to help the people who lost their job. All of us would love to help the small businesses. Let's make sure we get vaccines out. Let's make sure we have robust testing. Well, that's a very small part of the bill. We've already given our schools $68 billion last year, and they've spent 4 billion. So this idea that they need more money to open is just a fallacy. And in the COVID bill, that's - only a very small percentage would - even would go to our schools this year. So the Biden administration is not following the science, and they're not being honest about the need for money. So I think when people look in...

KELLY: And let me - forgive me, Senator, but let me just pause you before we get into the details of the COVID bill because I want to stay with your big-picture argument about Republicans and whether there is a civil war and if so, it is now canceled. And I take your point that you want to look forward and not back. So let's look to 2022 because I know you have been speaking to former President Trump about it. You've apparently been very specific about how he can be helpful with congressional races. How can he be helpful? What do you need him to do?

SCOTT: Well, there's nothing today. But what I...

KELLY: You need him - what? - just to be quiet right now or what does that mean?

SCOTT: No. No. Right now, I'm not asking for anything. But what I told him is that my goal is I'll be very specific about where I believe you can be helpful. I hope you'll be helpful. You know, everybody that has a following - I'd say the same thing to President Bush. I want him to be helpful to us. I want everybody that's going to help our senators win elections to be helpful to us. And I'll ask, and I'm very comfortable that if I can, you know, make sure that we're focused on the issues, we recruit good candidates, we're going to have a great '22.

KELLY: Do you believe Donald Trump will be helpful, even though a lot of folks, a lot of Republicans hold him responsible for losing the two Senate seats in Georgia?

SCOTT: I think he can. It's - you know, everybody has the opportunity to be helpful. But, you know, we've got a little less than two years before the election, so that's when people are going to get to vote. So we'll see, you know, where the public is, what issues are important at the time.

KELLY: Yeah.

SCOTT: But, I mean, look. I come from this a little bit different background. I got into my governor's race in 2010, when every basically Republican in the country had endorsed my opponent. I had zero name ID. Nobody believed I had a shot at winning. And I won because every day I got up, I talked to people, and I focused on the issues that were important.

KELLY: Although, if I may just press you on this specific point, the president has not been shy about saying he's happy to support challengers against sitting Republican senators and against sitting Republican officials writ large. There are a lot of questions about this. How does that play out in a scenario where you're backing candidates who are running primaries against candidates that Trump is backing?

SCOTT: So I believe every incumbent on the Senate side that's running is going to win the primary and going to win their general election. You know, we're - what I'm really focused on right now is recruiting good candidates in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina, in Alabama, and then where we have pickup opportunities. We should be able to pick up Mark Kelly's holding and what Warnock's holding. And the reason is...

KELLY: Talking about senators in Arizona and Georgia.

SCOTT: Yeah. They talked about - I mean, think about it. Mark Kelly voted against border security twice. I mean, how can you do that and think you're going to win an election in Arizona? And Warnock, you know, voted to give stimulus checks to illegal immigrants. I mean...

KELLY: OK. Well, without parsing the details of their voting records, I want to circle back...

SCOTT: So, Mary Louise, let's go back for a second. That's why we win. It's about voting records. It's about where you stand.

KELLY: To stay with the point about winning elections, for the record, do you accept that Joe Biden won the election?

SCOTT: Oh, absolutely. He's a sitting president and...

KELLY: Is he the legitimate, lawfully elected president?

SCOTT: Absolutely, Joe Biden won the election.

KELLY: I'm asking in part because you were 1 of 7 senators who voted to object to Pennsylvania's electoral vote count. This was after the assault on the Capitol on January 6. And I wonder, do you stand by that vote or in hindsight, have you come to regret it?

SCOTT: Absolutely.

KELLY: You stand by it?

SCOTT: People want to say that I did the vote because I wanted to change the results. No. I want people to comply with their law. If you look at the Democratic governor and the Democrat Supreme Court, they didn't follow the Constitution of Pennsylvania. That's wrong. I believe in election security. I want people to go out and vote. I want to make sure everybody wants to go out and vote. But you can't have your vote diluted. You can't have your vote diluted because somebody didn't comply with the law.

KELLY: Dozens of courts across the country disagree with the position that there was any vote rigging, that there was any widespread evidence of electoral fraud. But let me ask you just the big-picture question. Do you worry that Trump's refusal to accept the results of the election will do lasting damage, that it will damage the faith of people in your party and that Democrats have historically shared in the outcome of our elections?

SCOTT: I think what I'm going to try to do and I think others are going to try to do is make sure people feel comfortable and do things to make sure our elections - people feel comfortable at our elections.

KELLY: Should Donald Trump run for president again in 2024?

SCOTT: It's a choice he gets to make. And you know what? The voters are going to have to have - I bet the voters will have lots of options.

KELLY: That is Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida. He's also the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Senator, thank you for being with us. We appreciate your time.

SCOTT: Thanks, Mary Louise. Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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