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4 Ways Tim Scott's Appointment Furthers DeMint's Right-Wing Legacy in the Senate

South Carolina's first black Republican congressman since Reconstruction is headed to the U.S. Senate -- with a seal of approval from the right.
 
 
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Photo Credit: http://timscott.house.gov

 
 
 
 

UPDATE: At noon EST, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley named Rep. Tim Scott to take the Senate seat that will be vacated by Jim DeMint when the Tea Party leader steps down in January to take the top job at the Heritage Foundation. Scott will be the only African American in the Senate, and seventh African American U.S. senator in history.

Sen. Jim DeMint’s announcement that he will resign from the U.S. Senate to become president of the right-wing Heritage Foundation left the decision of DeMint’s successor in the hands of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.  DeMint has made it clear that his top choice would be Rep. Tim Scott, who was among the five people on Haley’s short list. This morning some are reporting that Haley has indeed chosen Scott.

Scott was elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave after defeating Strom Thurmond’s son in the GOP primary with backing from Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.  He’s considered a rising star in the party -- after the 2012 election he was elected to serve as the liaison to leadership for the rising sophomore class.  Like DeMint, he embraces both the Religious Right’s anti-gay, anti-choice social agenda and the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.  No wonder he’s a Fox News favorite – and no wonder Fred Barnes, writing in the Weekly Standard, calls Scott an “ideal replacement” for DeMint.

Scott holds particular appeal for conservatives after this year’s elections in which people of color overwhelmingly supported President Obama.  If appointed, Scott would become the only African American member of the U.S. Senate.  In 2010, he was one of 15 black conservative candidates backed by “Operation Black Storm,” a project of Alan Keyes’ Patriot PAC.  Only Scott and Allen West were elected. Scott shares West’s politics but not his tendency to spout ridiculous rhetoric about President Obama being a Marxist tyrant. That may be one reason West will soon be a former member of Congress and Scott may soon be a U.S. Senator.

1. Anti-Obama Cred

Scott has the fervent anti-Obama record demanded by the far right.   On Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Scott said, “This president has consistently found himself on the wrong side of the concept of the rule of law.” He claimed, “It’s a liberal media bias that insulates this president from having to explain the truth to any American citizen about the things that go wrong in this government.”

He embodies the Tea Party’s opposition to the federal health care reform bill and has joined House Republican efforts to defund it and repeal sections of it.  He joined an anti-health care reform rally at the U.S. Supreme Court, where he said “the last thing anybody wants to see happen is the United States government take over health care and ruin the best health care system in the world today.” 

Scott was an energetic participant in House Republicans’ desperate but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to politicize the botched “Fast and Furious” operation and turn it into an election-year scandal for the Obama administration.  Those efforts included a House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.   At the same time Scott was frantically working to politicize the death of a border control agent, he was accusing  the left of politicizing the issue. 

At this year’s Republican National Convention, Scott said “The past four years of hope and change have led me to one conclusion: our only hope is to change the current resident of the White House. Amen.” And his “heartfelt” and not exactly respectful message to the president: “Hit the road, Jack, and dontcha come back no more no more no more.”

Scott told CBN’s David Brody that he understood why some black people would vote for Obama as a matter of history, but not him.  “I think the question is, ‘who am I?’ Well, if I am first a Christian conservative then that dictates my response to all questions so my response first as a Christian conservative is to vote consistent with my value system. I’m not saying whether President Obama is a Christian or not. I’m talking about one thing and one thing only. What he represents as a politician, is it consistent with what I think our country needs, and if the answer is no then I have to vote consistent with my values.”

In response to speculation during congressional obstruction on the debt limit that President Obama could invoke the 14th Amendment’s requirement that the government pay its debts to get around congressional inaction, Scott said that would be “an impeachable act.”

2. Religious Right Cred

Scott espouses far-right positions on abortion and gay rights – he has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign – and he promotes the Religious Right’s absurd claim that Christians are somehow a persecuted minority in this country.  During this year’s South Carolina primary, Scott was among the speakers at a pre-debate rallyhosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. “The greatest minority under assault today are Christians,” Scott said. “No doubt about it.” He also said, “We need a revolution in this country.”  “And we need a revival in this land.” 

Scott opposes the requirement in the Affordable Care Act  for contraception coverage and argues that the administration’s compromise does not protect religious liberty.  In an op-ed he published in The Hill, he wrote, “Our nation was founded by those who believed in faith and freedom. Too often, Americans who are proud of their faith and the values it instills find themselves under attack. Government should be protecting our right to religious freedom, not assaulting it.”

In the “traditional values” section of his campaign Web site Scott lists legislation he has supported promoting abstinence education, defunding United Nations family planning programs, imposing abortion restrictions on women in the District of Columbia, and “protecting” Christmas.  It includes this summary:

I am unapologetically pro-life.  Each and every human life is valuable and my legislative agenda and record reflect my resolute commitment to protect the sanctity of life.

I support traditional marriage.  The institution of marriage is the unity of one man and one woman.   Allowing the government to weaken the definition of marriage takes away from our children and we must not allow that to happen.

I will fight for religious freedoms. The Constitution expressly safeguards our freedom to practice and embrace religion.  The federal government’s role is not to protect government from religion, but to protect religion from government intrusion.  Government is already interfering in our homes and businesses; we must not allow it to do the same with our faith.

The Web site also includes dispatches from the leader of Scott’s prayer warrior team.  The January 2012 dispatch includes this:

We can rest assured that regardless of what is happening, we are a nation born on a foundation of the Gospel of our Savior, Jesus and He lives and reigns this very day and forevermore and His perfect peace is ours in the midst of the storm!  Tim wanted you to know that in the knowledge of God’s assurance, this year should be about pursuing Isaiah 61 especially because of our times.  There are so many who are lost and in need of answers and, Praise God, you have them!

With the leading of the Holy Spirit, we should seek heavenly strategies to take on the challenges of 2012.  

At the Ralph Reed rally during the South Carolina primary, he told a story about a public fight over the Ten Commandments when he was on the county council.  “We are in desperate need of a compass, a moral compass that tells us the difference between right and wrong,” he said. “And I believe that you can look no further than the word of God to find that compass.”

3. Tea Party Cred

Scott came to Congress on the 2010 Tea Party wave and talks like it.  He takes a Tea Partier’s rhetorical approach to the Constitution, telling attendees at a town hall meeting, “I think states’ rights, state sovereignty, the 9th and 10th amendment, has to be protected against our federal government.” He says the immigration issue is “easy” -- “We want to make sure the local law enforcement is empowered to enforce the laws of the country.” Congress is a “freak show.”  The country needs to “drill baby, drill.”  The Environmental Protection Agency is a “job-killing agency” that needs to be chopped off at the knees.

He has been part of the no-compromise wing of the 2010 class.  He refused to support House Speaker John Boehner’s plan for getting past the crisis over lifting the debt ceiling after he and two of his fellow freshman prayed about the issue.  Here’s how the Washington Post recounted the events:

Not even gentle persuasion could overcome higher powers Thursday. As Boehner was in his meetings, three freshman Republicans from South Carolina were in the House chapel nearby, in quiet discussion and in prayer. Reps. Mick MulvaneyTim Scott and Jeff Duncanwanted a stronger provision to guarantee a balanced-budget amendment and knew they would be lobbied furiously in the hours to come.

At one point, Duncan said, Mulvaney picked up a Bible and read a verse from Proverbs 22: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

“It’s telling me to really be bold, to really fight for structural changes,” Duncan said.

“Mulvaney snapped the Bible closed. And I said, ‘Guys, that’s all I need to see,’ ” Duncan said. “Tim said, ‘Yep.’ And we stood up and walked out.”

Discussing the episode with Fox News, Scott said “I try to lean on the highest level of wisdom I can find and that is divine wisdom.”

Scott also enlists Martin Luther King to support the Tea Party’s anti-spending agenda (pay no attention to King’s actual call for government action on jobs).  He said at a 2012 MLK commemoration that his deficit-cutting efforts were akin to King’s movement:  "We can't be free when we have a $1.5 trillion annual deficit, there is no freedom in America for a black man, a white man, a Jew, a gentile, a Protestant or a Catholic. We can't be free.”  He has told constituents, “The more we spend, the less freedom we have.” 

He has also, as noted by Brian Beutler at TPM, helped voodoo economics  make “a triumphant return to Capitol Hill.” Scott claimed that tax increases would lead to lower revenue.  Scott made the same argument to constituents during a town hall meeting:  “If you increase taxes you get fewer dollars to the treasury…This is not a partisan issue. This is what we call truth.”

4. Big Business Cred

Scott’s anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-union positions make him a favorite of the big business lobby: during his short tenure he has already been honored by the Club for Growth, which gave him its “Defender of Economic Freedom Award,” and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which gave him its “Spirit of Enterprise” award. Receiving that award, he said, “We must free our job creators from the burden placed on their backs by the federal government, and provide them with the right opportunities to move our economy forward.”  Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donahue gushed, “While many in Congress were busy playing politics, Representative Scott was working to protect and advance the interests of America’s job creators.”  Scott, who supports a flat tax, introduced “the Rising Tides Act,” which would cut corporate taxes. 

The Party of the Tea Party

Jim DeMint helped create the uncompromising, ideologically extreme Republican Party that has engaged in unprecedented obstructionism during the Obama administration – and is wreaking havoc in states like Michigan.  Tim Scott seems eager to further that destructive legacy. 

Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation.
 
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