The Daily 202: Pushing to deploy the U.S. military, Rick Scott helps to shape Trump’s Venezuela policy
The Washington Post
James Hohmann with Joanie Greve & Mariana Alfaro
May 1, 2019

Excerpts below; read more from The Washington Post HERE.

THE BIG IDEA: Sen. Rick Scott has emerged as the most prominent and vocal booster for using American military might to support the removal of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Scott came to the Senate in January after eight years as governor of a battleground state with a massive population of Venezuelan expats. He’s used his friendly relationship with President Trump to guide U.S. policy toward regime change. Along with former Trump primary opponent Marco Rubio, the senior senator who has been most publicly identified with the Venezuela crisis, Scott encouraged the president to recognize Guaidó as the rightful leader of the oil-rich country.

The 66-year-old traveled to Venezuela’s border with Colombia last Wednesday during the Senate’s Easter recess. He visited a soup kitchen funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which he said serves about 5,000 meals a day of rice and beans to refugees. Scott recounted a conversation with a woman who fled Venezuela with her three children. “They’re sleeping on the streets,” he said. “They’re stranded there.” The senator met separately with Panama’s president on Tuesday, Colombia’s president on Thursday and Argentina’s president on Friday.

Scott said he’s been in touch with both Trump and national security adviser John Bolton. “I've been talking to the White House quite a bit,” Scott said. “I talked to the president again this weekend about how we can't let up. We've got to do everything we can. This is our chance. If we don't, we're going to have Syria here in our own hemisphere.”

Scott scored a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee when he took office in January and has quickly carved out a niche as a leading hawk on the Hill. He enlisted in the Navy after attending community college and served on active duty as a radar man aboard the USS Glover. Then he used the GI Bill to attend college at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and law school at Southern Methodist University.

-- Scott sees what’s going on in Caracas as a proxy war, as well as a 21st-century test of whether something akin to the Monroe Doctrine still applies. James Monroe declared in 1823 that the United States would oppose European colonialism in its backyard, including South America.

“Our enemies are using Venezuela as a foothold in the Western Hemisphere,” the senator said. “This is a fight against Cuba, Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah, who are all in Venezuela right now. … President Xi [Jinping], President [Vladimir] Putin, the Castro regime and Maduro are all committing genocide. … And we have to step up.

Scott has been trying to pick his spots, identifying a handful of issues on which he can establish himself as a leader in the Senate. Venezuela is one, along with Puerto Rico, prescription drug prices and the temporary protected status program. “Bob Corker said something really interesting to me. I used to live in Tennessee, so I knew him back when,” Scott said, referring to the recently retired former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “He said you will get a lot more opportunities to get involved in something in the Senate when you’re really knowledgeable about that issue. We’ll see how good I am. That’s the test.”