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Rep. Tim Scott Bursting the Beltway ‘Bubble,’ Letting Business In

The House freshman and Tea Party wunderkind opens up to PJM about fishy Labor numbers, bipartisanship, and his relationship with the Black Caucus.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

June 4, 2012 - 3:03 pm
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The House Oversight Committee is holding a highly anticipated hearing Wednesday about the integrity of the Labor Department’s reporting of job statistics, and whether political appointees in the department have undue influence over the process used by the department to collect and disseminate data.

Elected with Tea Party support in the grass-roots and from conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Scott has met the challenge of bringing both sides to the table in this sensitive political environment.

“While some people are looking for compromise, I’m really looking for common ground,” he said.

On May 24, Scott and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Calif.), a Blue Dog Democrat, announced the formation of the bipartisan Congressional Regulatory Review Caucus. Citing the 79,000 pages of new federal regulations issued in 2011, Scott said the effort to compose a body that would sit down and judge the merits of these rules as helpful or job-killing was in the making for a while — and long overdue.

“I think what people are really driving toward is measurable change in reasonable time,” Scott said. “…It will take help from every corner of the country, even those I may not philosophically agree with.”

“I’m going to bring those folks to the table and find a way to move the ship forward,” he added.

But Scott hasn’t indiscriminately taken a seat at all tables. The first African-American Republican elected in South Carolina since Reconstruction decided against joining the Congressional Black Caucus, saying at the time it highlighted the divisions that he sought to erase. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), also elected in 2010, did join the CBC, saying the conservative voice needed to be represented in the caucus.

How is Scott’s relationship with the CBC now?

“It was pretty chilly for a long time,” he said. “I won’t say that the chill’s out of the air. We have at least a cordial interaction.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) dropped by Scott’s Revitalizing America conference. Scott highlights CBC member Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) — tied for first with 19 other House Democrats in National Journal’s 2012 rankings of the most liberal members of Congress — who participated in one of the Revitalizing America panels.

Scott said he and Clarke have shared common ground on at least one key issue stemming from their backgrounds: Both grew up in single-parent, impoverished households. Both are members of the House of Representatives’ freshman class.

“I about flunked out of high school as a freshman,” Scott said. “We both found through education we could open doors we could never believe to be open.”

Owner of an insurance company and a partner in a real estate firm, Scott is among the members of Congress trying to parlay their business acumen into encouraging business-friendly legislative environments that encourage growth.

Hence, Revitalizing America. “Sometimes it seems like if you’re not willing to bring the biggest spotlight to problems then you’re not working on the problems,” Scott said.

His greatest achievement of this first term, though, may be adherence to a credo that Scott brought to the Beltway: a vow “not to let the system run me.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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