U.S. Sen. Rick Scott sharply criticized fellow Senate Republicans who went along with the gun-control scheme pushed by congressional Democrats and the Biden administration.
In some minds, the question immediately became if Scott is signaling bigger ambitions by going against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he did with his 11-point economic program that called for all Americans to pay something in income taxes.
President Joe Biden signed the gun measure on Saturday, the main feature of which involved the federal government offering financial incentives for states to adopt red-flag laws. Such laws allow courts to order guns removed from homes of people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
The bill also opens up juvenile criminal records for inspection for gun purchases.
Biden received the bill after it was approved by the House on Friday. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The list included some of the usual anti-Trump GOP suspects – including Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. But perhaps one surprise was Rep. Maria Salazar of Miami.
Before the House voted, though, 15 Senate Republicans, including McConnell, backed the Democrats’ proposals.
And this is who Sen. Scott vented against.
The Florida Republican on Thursday denounced the bill in recalling how it differed from one that he, as Florida’s governor, signed in promoting school safety following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in 2018.
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“While there are elements of the bill now being considered in the Senate that I support, like the Luke and Alex School Safety Act that I have been fighting to pass for years, the Senate also unfortunately decided to take action that is not consistent with the aggressive due process protections that I fought for when I was governor,” Scott said in a statement.
“These bills are not the same at all. One was the product of a collaborative, well-defined and transparent process. The other was the result of secret backroom dealings that did not include input from the majority of Republican members, committee hearings, nor opportunities for amendments, giving members barely an hour to read the bill before we were asked to vote on it.”
Continuing, Scott added, “In Florida, we used a thorough process that included meetings with mental health, education and law enforcement experts to get valuable feedback on our bill. At the conclusion of that process, I signed a bill that improved school safety and has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous people and those suffering with mental illness, all while ensuring strong due process protections that stop unlawful infringement on the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Floridians.”
In contrast, he added, “The bill the Senate is considering abandons Florida’s model and allows even the most radical policies, like California’s red flag law, to be implemented and supported with federal funding. Ironclad due process protections are essential to protecting the constitutional rights of Americans and we can NEVER compromise on that.”
“This bill also allows convicted domestic abusers to have automatic restoration of their gun rights. People who have been accused, tried and convicted of beating their significant other would automatically get their gun rights back after just five years. I will not support soft-on-crime policies like this,” he further noted.
“As governor of Florida, I always weighed past domestic abuse when considering a restoration of gun rights through the clemency process and I do not support efforts to allow someone who has been convicted of domestic abuse to have the opportunity to automatically get a gun.”
“I was hopeful the Senate would follow an open and thorough process like we did in Florida. That is unfortunately not the case with the current bill and why I will vote no.”
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After his comments on Thursday, an Washington Times article speculated whether Sen. Scott may be eying a 2024 presidential bid.
Scott’s “willingness to zig when Mr. McConnell zags has confounded Republican leaders. It also has increased speculation about the Florida Republican’s presidential ambitions and has generated an outpouring of adulation from the Trump-inspired base of the party,” the Times reported.
“They are very much in favor of Rick Scott getting crosswise with Sen. McConnell because Sen. McConnell does a lot of things that the base does not agree with,” Peter Feaman, national committeeman of the Republican Party of Florida, told the Times.
“So getting crosswise with Sen. McConnell only helps Sen. Scott with his Republican base in Florida.”
Brett Doster, a Tallahassee-based GOP strategist, told the Times that he doesn’t think Scott’s needling of McConnell is “calculated.” But as a conservative, former governor and a former CEO, Scott “will have moments of lost patience with the Senate’s constant compromise. [It] may irritate McConnell, but that pays dividends as McConnell is the very face of the ‘sold-out’ establishment,” Doster said.
Curt Anderson, who the Times described as a longtime Scott adviser, said the senator is “99% focused on the midterm elections.” Scott has considerable influence in that realm, since he leads the GOP fundraising committee to get more Republicans elected.
Instead, Anderson suggested to the Times, what we see is Scott following his instincts and letting “the chips fall where they may.”