President Joe Biden’s message for Floridians was clear Thursday before he even stepped on stage.
Left on the seats of audience members and journalists was a miniature copy of Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s American Rescue Plan, with an emphasis on a section that called for sunsetting all federal legislation after five years.
“This means Medicare and Social Security would be on the chopping block every five years under Senator Rick Scott and Congressional Republicans’ plan,” the pamphlet read.
That set the tone for Biden’s remarks before a crowd of about 150 students and Democratic officials at the University of Tampa – in an event that may become one of the early skirmishes of the 2024 presidential campaign. In visiting Florida, the president came to the backyard of one 2024 Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, and a likely candidate, Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Noting that Florida has the highest percentage of seniors in the country, Biden told the crowd that he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare benefits and touted his record lowering preion drug prices.
“Too many Americans lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering what happens if I get sick, if I get cancer, or my wife gets breast cancer, or the kids get really sick,” Biden said, beneath an ornate domed ceiling in Plant Hall. “What happens? Are we going to have to sell the house? How are we going to pay our bills?”
Prelude to 2024?Leon, Floridspan Democrspants look to Joe Biden on how to tspanngle with Republicspanns
Biden harkened back to what he called a “spirited debate” during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address in which he referred to a plan by “some Republicans” to sunset Social Security and Medicare, drawing boos and heckling from GOP members in the audience.
While he didn’t mention any names then, he used Thursday’s appearance to call out Florida’s own Sen. Rick Scott by name.
Biden vs. Scott:Scott jspanbs bspanck spant Biden in spann spanttspanck spand spanhespand of Floridspan visit
Analysis:He didn’t mention Rick Scott. But Biden used his plspann to bspanit Republicspanns on Socispanl Security, Medicspanre.
“Maybe he’s changed his mind. Maybe he’s seen the Lord,” Biden said, drawing laughs from the audience. “The very idea the senator from Florida wants to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block every five years I find to be somewhat outrageous, so outrageous that you might not even believe it.”
“But that’s what he – I won’t do it again, but I will,” Biden said, before holding up a copy of the plan and reading the sunset section, eliciting more laughs.
Ahead of the Florida presidential visit, Scott pushed back and cut an ad accusing Biden of lying about the whole thing.
Wearing a grey-and-white plaid shirt and a navy hat, Scott in the ad accuses Biden of cutting $280 billion from Medicare and said the president “cheated on his taxes … taxes that should have gone to Medicare.”
“Biden should resign,” Scott said at the end of the ad.
The visit was part of a post-State of the Union “blitz” across the country that began Wednesday at a Wisconsin union training center. There, Biden shared details of an economic plan that he said would help an aging population and stagnant workforce, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.