Scott later delivered an emotional rejection to any suggestion that his police reform bill is “token” legislation in a swipe at Durbin.
In a Senate floor speech, the South Carolina Republican commemorated the five-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and criticized Democrats for playing politics on police reform.
“To have the senator from Illinois refer to the process, this bill, this opportunity to restore hope and confidence from the American people, from African Americans, from communities of color, to call this a token process hurts my soul for my country, for our people,” Scott said in his speech.
“To think that the concept of anti-lynching as a part of this legislation to be considered a token piece of legislation because perhaps I’m African American, the only one on this side of the aisle, I don’t know what he meant, but … those comments again hurts the soul,” he added.
Durbin, in his floor speech, also described Scott as a “friend” and said he was a “good choice” to lead the Republicans on a compromise bill. And in a follow-up statement, Hampsten added that “addressing systemic racism and changing policing in America requires and deserves more than one Judiciary hearing, one floor vote, one conversation.” Instead, she said, it deserves the “bipartisan attention of the Senate.”
Scott’s proposal, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he’ll take up next week, would require additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of “no-knock warrants” and provides incentives for chokehold bans. It would also provide grants to increase the use of body cameras and it makes lynching a federal crime.
“On the other side, they are wanting to race bait on tokenism, while this legislation would provide resources for body cameras, for anti-lynching, for de-escalation training,” Scott said. “But no, we can’t concern ourselves with the families I have sat with at the White House yesterday.”
Democrats, however, criticized the GOP bill for not going far enough. Senate and House Democrats have their own proposal, which would offer sweeping changes, including banning chokeholds, limiting qualified immunity for police officers and banning no knock warrants for federal drug cases.
The competing bills come as the country faces a reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice amid the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In his floor speech, Scott highlighted that the GOP and Democratic proposals have similarities, including calling for more information, more training and finding a way to ban chokeholds.
“That’s where we should be focusing our attention on, not the color of my skin, not tokens,” Scott said. “I get it all the time on Twitter. I’m used to it. But on this day, my heart aches for my state.”
The South Carolina Republican last week shot back at criticism on Twitter that he is a “token” black politician that the GOP is using, asking why they wouldn’t want someone leading the Republican police reform effort who has personally been racially profiled by police.
While Scott said most Democrats are eager for a solution, some he said are more focused on 2020.
“We would rather have a conversation about tearing this country apart, making it a binary choice between law enforcement and communities of color instead of working for the American people,” Scott said.