Republican senator says tax rises in own plan are ‘Democratic talking points’

A Republican senator and reputed presidential hopeful found himself in a tough spot when he claimed tax rises contained in his own “11 point plan to rescue America” were “Democratic talking points” instead.

Related: ‘Rick Scott had us on lockdown’: how Florida said no to $70m for HIV crisis

“No, no, it’s in the plan!” his interviewer exclaimed, on Fox News Sunday. “It’s in the plan!”

Rick Scott, from Florida, is a former healthcare chief executive whose company admitted 14 felonies related to fraudulent practices. As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel put it, “most happened under Scott’s leadership”.

As the Guardian reported, when Scott was governor of Florida “his administration presided over the effective blocking of $70m in federal funds available for fighting the state’s HIV crisis”.

Scott beat an incumbent Democrat for a Senate seat in 2018 and is now chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) as the party eyes a Senate takeover in the midterm elections.

Last month, Scott released an “11 Point Plan to Rescue America”. It proposes that more Americans pay federal income tax and says Congress could “sunset” social security and Medicare within five years, meaning allow them to lapse.

The plan immediately came under fire.

The non-partisan Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy (Itep) said Scott’s plan “would increase taxes by more than $1,000 on average for the poorest 40% of Americans”.

Itep also noted the effect Scott’s plan would have on Republican heartlands, saying the states most affected, “where more than 40% of residents would face tax increases, are … Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Georgia, New Mexico, South Carolina and … Florida”.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, disowned the plan, saying: “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets social security and Medicare within five years.”

Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist, said Scott had given Democrats a much-needed election-year gift.

“All Democrats need do,” he wrote, regarding a plan which would also cut trade with China and slash tax-gathering resources, “is repeat Scott’s own words.”

The Fox News Sunday host John Roberts asked Scott: “Why would you propose something like that in an election year?”

Scott said Roberts was repeating “Democrat talking points”.

“No, no, it’s in the plan!” Roberts said. “It’s in the plan!”

Scott said: “But here’s the thing about reality for a second.”

Roberts said: “But, Senator, hang on. It’s not a Democratic talking point! It’s in the plan!”

Scott defended his plan, saying, “We ought to every year talk about exactly how we are going to fix Medicare and social security” but “no one that I know of wants to sunset” either.

“Here’s what’s unfair,” he added, of his tax plan. “We have people that … could go to work and have figured out how to have government pay their way. That’s not right. They ought to have some skin in the game. I don’t care if it’s a dollar. We ought to all be in this together.”

Scott is reportedly Donald Trump’s choice to replace McConnell as Senate leader – an effort that shows no sign of succeeding.

Scott was asked if, with a Wall Street Journal column entitled “Why I’m Defying Beltway Cowardice”, he was calling McConnell a coward. He dodged the question, saying he wanted “to get something done”.

Complaining about “the woke left” and Democratic policy on immigration and energy, he said: “We’ve got to change this. You don’t change it without having a plan.”