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.
June 4, 2012 - 3:03 pm
The midterm Republican rout in Congress may seem like just yesterday, but one prominent freshman has packed more into his first 18 months on the Hill than some lawmakers do a few terms in.
Tapped for a leadership position from the minute he stepped into Washington, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), along with Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), was chosen to be a Class of 2010 liaison to the Republican House chiefs. He’s also on the Rules Committee and a member or co-chairman of 20 caucuses, including the conservative Republican Study Committee.
“Two arms simply aren’t enough when everyone’s pulling on them from different directions,” Scott told PJM, reflecting on this challenging yet productive and sometimes “painful” term.
“I enjoy the role of pulling people together while remaining committed to conservatism,” he added. “I’m having the time of my life in having to face some of the greatest crises that I didn’t even know were there.”
It’s included sponsoring more than 40 bills, including a resolution to rescind funding for ObamaCare and another to dial back National Labor Relations Board meddling in the workplace.
And it’s also included pulling together last Thursday’s Revitalizing America conference, which was open to the public and brought together business leaders and lawmakers to chat for more than seven hours about how to really put Americans to work and foster the entrepreneurial spirit.
Scott called the event a “smashing success.” Participants included House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Steve Forbes, Carly Fiorina, Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle, Honeywell CEO Dave Cote, House Republican Caucus Vice-Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Reps. Noem, Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.).
“So often we live in a bubble on this side of the Potomac and the bubble doesn’t always include the job creators,” Scott said, noting that he conducted quarterly CEO summits when he served in government back in his home state.
In addition to members who served on panels, other lawmakers wandered in throughout the day to hear the discussion that hopefully, said Scott, created that spark of understanding needed to craft business-friendly policies.
“I think we saw that,” he said.
It just so happened that his Hill event preceded by a day the release of May’s disappointing Labor Department numbers, showing much lower than projected job growth and an uptick in the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent.
And the week before meeting to discuss Revitalizing America, Scott met with the face of the American economy at one of his town hall meetings in Charleston.
“One of the great challenges is the number of job seekers has fallen off, as well,” Scott said. “There’s a way to play games with numbers before the election.”
He predicted that the Obama administration could tweak the unemployment to begin with a 7 by the time the presidential election arrives, only to bounce back up after November.
“I believe that’s where the administration is trying to drive us to, even if it’s an artificial number,” Scott warned.
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.”