Florida Senator Rick Scott faced a wave of backlash Thursday after the Republican lawmaker challenged President Joe Biden to a debate on Social Security and Medicare.
Biden, while visiting Florida earlier in the day, had singled out Scott for his proposal to sunset federal legislation every five years, which would include programs like Social Security and Medicare. According to CNN, White House aides placed a printed-out copy of Scott’s proposal on every seat in the audience for the president’s event in Tampa.
The president also hinted at Scott’s proposal during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, which was met with boos and heckling from the Republican side of a joint session of Congress.
On Thursday, Scott addressed Biden’s Tampa event in a tweet, writing, “Welcome to Florida, [Biden].”
“Since you can’t stop talking about me and lying to Floridians about Social Security and Medicare, I’m sure you’ll accept my invitation to debate the issue,” the senator wrote. “I’ll be back in Florida tonight. You pick the time and place.”
Scott’s post resurfaced backlash for the Republican’s connection to one of the largest health-care fraud settlements in U.S. history, from his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA. According to PolitiFact, the company was fined after federal prosecutors discovered it was committing Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
In 2000, Columbia/HCA agreed to more than $840 million in criminal fines and damages over unlawful billing practices, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ). The company later faced an additional $881 million fine in 2002, bringing its total settlement to $1.7 billion.
“While Rick Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA Hospital, he oversaw the biggest Medicare fraud in US history and was fined $1.7 billion, which was the largest healthcare fraud fine ever levied by the DOJ,” tweeted political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen in response to Scott’s post. “Maybe don’t listen to this guy when it comes to protecting earned benefits.”
Another user pointed to an interview of Scott from March 2022, where Fox News host John Roberts pressed the senator on his 11-point plan to “save America,” which Scott had introduced as a blueprint for how the GOP should govern if the party regains control of Congress in the November midterm.
In a segment of the interview posted by the DNC to Twitter, which was resurfaced by Cohen earlier this week, Roberts questioned Scott on two points from his plan, which included having every American pay income tax as well as proposing that federal legislation sunsets after five years.
Scott argues to the Fox News anchor that the two suggestions were “Democratic talking points,” to which Roberts pushes back, “It’s in the plan.”
According to a tweet from Scott Thursday evening, Biden declined the senator’s invitation to debate Social Security and Medicare.
“Makes you wonder if he’s more afraid of facing me or facing himself,” Scott added, referencing a clip of Biden calling to freeze Social Security while serving as a Delaware senator.
Beyond the backlash from Democrats, Republican leaders have also repeatedly dismissed the idea to cut into programs like Medicare and Social Security in order to reduce federal spending. On Monday, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy delivered his own address to the American public ahead of Biden’s State of the Union, saying that both programs were “off the table” as the GOP negotiates with the White House on making “structural changes” in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.
Newsweek has reached out to Scott’s office for comment.
Update 2/9/23, 7:30 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.