If this were another time — and if the Republican Party were something other than what it has become over the past five years — President Biden’s massive spending proposals would present a juicy opportunity for the opposition to fight a principled battle over the size and role of government, as well as how to pay for what government does.

This is familiar turf on which Republicans have so often triumphed since at least as far back as the era of Ronald Reagan, and where they have been so successful over the years in putting Democrats, starting with Bill Clinton, on the defensive.

For a brief moment at the beginning of the official Republican response to Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) appeared to be heading in that direction.

Biden had laid out a vision of government more expansive than anything the country has seen since the era of Lyndon B. Johnson or Franklin D. Roosevelt, and made the case that nothing short of his plans would be needed to address the multiple crises that the United States now faces.

Biden nodded to bringing Republicans aboard, but almost no one believes that will actually happen.

Would Biden have a better shot at it if he scaled back? Maybe. Scott, in his address, noted — correctly — that the two parties had joined together to pass packages for pandemic relief last year.

In lamenting that Democrats had passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue bill in March with no Republican votes, Scott elided the obvious blame that Republicans themselves carry for refusing to engage in serious negotiations with the new president. He lambasted the scale of the even more ambitious packages Biden has put forward since and called the president’s infrastructure proposals “a partisan wish list.”

Scott framed the argument in terms that echoed Reagan. He said Democrats want “even more taxing, even more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life — from the cradle to college.” He sounded an aspirational note about “expanding opportunities ... for all families.”

After telling the remarkable personal story that brought him to Washington as the only Black Republican in the Senate, Scott noted that even he lives with “the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around a store while I’m shopping.” He also noted “our healing is not finished.” Scott himself has done admirable work to bring the two parties together on Capitol Hill in hopes of passing police reform legislation.

So how was it possible that, in the same speech, Scott could consign all of this is to the “painful past” and make the blanket dismissal that “America is not a racist country”?

As Vice President Harris put it on Thursday morning in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”

Scott devoted much of the rest of his address to the grievance-fueled, fantasy-based claims that animate the Trumpian base.

The senator was at his most disingenuous about his party’s agenda in the way he framed efforts underway in GOP legislatures across the country to make it harder for Americans — and especially non-White Americans — to vote.

Scott claimed that Democrats are the ones who are undertaking a drive toward “rigging elections in the future,” when that is precisely what Republicans are doing. Their goal, as The Post has shown, is nothing short of “the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction, when Southern states curtailed the voting rights of formerly enslaved Black men.”

But in truth, none of what Scott had to say mattered. The larger, more defining message being delivered to the Republican base is the conspiracy-mongering that their leaders continue to foment. Over on Fox News, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday night once again made the bonkers and thoroughly debunked claim that Biden is “going to control how much meat you can eat. Can you imagine that?”

Uh, no. This supposed scheme of Biden’s exists only in the imagination of the fever swamp, and the fact that Republican leaders have latched onto it shows how desperate they are to avoid a real policy debate. The question that continues to stump me is: Why are they so reluctant to engage and help produce something that has a more conservative flavor but still gets the job done?

Maybe it is because most of the things that Biden is proposing are actually popular, and long overdue. If he cannot get them done, Republicans might be the ones who pay the price. They will have shown they are a party that no longer stands for anything more substantive than its outrage.

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