Republican Senator Tim Scott delivered a speech responding to President Joe Biden’s first address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening. The response provides an opportunity for Scott, a rising star in the Republican Party, to outline an alternative to the president’s ambitious legislative agenda.

Scott began his speech by saying that Mr. Biden “seems like a good man,” but argued that his policies were divisive.

“Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership,” Scott said. “Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that bring us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”

Scott noted that five bipartisan coronavirus relief packages had passed under former President Trump in the past year, but Congress passed the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan without any Republican votes.

Scott delivered his response after Mr. Biden concluded his speech, which included details about his American Families Plan, a tax and spending bill focused on health care, child care and education. Between this and the American Jobs Plan, his infrastructure proposal, Mr. Biden is calling on Congress to pass over $4 trillion in spending on major projects. 

Scott called the American Jobs Plan a “liberal wishlist of big government waste.” Republicans have balked at the price tags for these proposals, questioned their relevancy, and criticized Mr. Biden’s plan to raise certain taxes to pay for them.

Scott also spoke about his experience with discrimination as a Black man, and noted that he had proposed a police reform bill last year that had been blocked by Democrats. Democrats argued that the bill did not go far enough.

He also raised social issues that are motivating voters on the right, such as recent efforts to center the history of slavery and discrimination in the current political conversation. Scott, like other Republicans, argued that Democrats are invoking racism to score political points.

“America is not a racist country,” Scott said. “Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue like one side wants.”

But while he mentioned issues that motivated Republican voters, he only referred to former President Trump in passing.

Scott offered an alternative vision for the future as the country begins to emerge from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shaken the economy and resulted in the deaths of more than half a million Americans.

“I look forward to having an honest conversation with the American people and sharing Republicans’ optimistic vision for expanding opportunity and empowering working families,” Scott said in a statement announcing his response last week.

Scott told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that he would “try to keep it simple,” and that he had been practicing his remarks “a bunch.”

“From my perspective, you figure out who your audience is, you figure out what you want to say, you try to find a way to say it well. And you lean into who you are,” Scott said.

Scott, 55, has served in the U.S. Senate since 2013 and has been seen by party operatives as a potential presidential contender. He has toed the line of support for former President Donald Trump, who remains a popular figure among Republican voters, while still being willing to criticize Mr. Trump on certain issues. Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate, is also currently engaged in negotiations with Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Karen Bass on a police reform bill.