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Scott rebukes critics who say he’s being used by GOP on police legislation

South Carolina native has long been outspoken on need for overhaul

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is leading the GOP effort on devising a policing overhaul package.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is leading the GOP effort on devising a policing overhaul package. (CQ Roll Call)

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the chamber, strongly rebuked critics on Twitter who say he is being used as he leads the party’s effort on overhauling policing.

“Not surprising the last 24 hours have seen a lot of ‘token’ ‘boy’ or ‘you’re being used’ in my mentions. Let me get this straight … you DON’T want the person who has faced racial profiling by police, been pulled over dozens of times, or been speaking out for YEARS drafting this?” he said Wednesday in the first of a pair of tweets.

[Senate GOP policing plan may hold some compromises for Democrats]

Scott has been outspoken for years on the topic and went after critics who suggested “you’re the only black guy they know,” referring to other members of the Senate GOP.

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“There are only two black Democratic Senators, stop pretending there’s some huge racial diversity gap in the Senate. Ask my Dem colleagues what their staffs look like … I guarantee you won’t like the answer,” he tweeted.

Former Sen. Mo Cowan, who was the first African American Democrat to represent Massachusetts in the Senate, took to Twitter to acknowledge Scott’s “lived experience.”

“I trust him to lead on this — and build coalitions to drive real change,” tweeted Cowan, who briefly served with Scott in 2013 after being appointed to replace Sen. John Kerry.

In a July 2016 floor speech, Scott described some of the racism he’s experienced at the hands of law enforcement, recalling how he had repeatedly been pulled over “for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some reason just as trivial.”

Over 13 percent of the U.S. population is black or African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but Scott, and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California are the only black members in the Senate. Only 10 African Americans have ever served in the U.S. Senate to date.

Scott spoke to reporters Tuesday, previewing some of the items that may be included in a GOP policing package, which included ways to push departments to increase reporting to the Department of Justice and to encourage law enforcement agencies to use body cameras.

The calls for overhaul come after weeks of protests across the country after a video surfaced showing the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he expects legislative recommendations in the “near future.” The GOP proposal comes on the heels of a 134-page Democratic proposal, which will likely advance through the House by the end of the month.

One issue that Republicans are discussing that Democrats do not have in their bill is establishing a national commission to study policing best practices.

Last week, Scott told NPR’s Ailsa Chang he had spoken about race with President Donald Trump “four or five times in the last three or four weeks” and believed his focus was in the “right place.”

The White House is working on an executive order that would overhaul several police laws, according to Politico. The executive order won’t be a substitute for the Senate legislation, and the Trump administration indicated it will also endorse Scott’s effort.

Chang asked Scott whether Trump has “a problem with his words when it comes to this issue,” after pointing to recent inflammatory tweets by the president.

Scott acknowledged that Trump’s “love language has never been words of encouragement. I like to think of his love language as acts of service.”

Scott explained that by focusing on policy he hopes to “produce the type of change that will be necessary for a healthier, stronger middle class in the African American community.”

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