McConnell taps Tim Scott to assemble GOP police reform legislation

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that he has tapped Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only African American Republican in the upper chamber, to put together police reform legislation.

McConnell said his party needs to respond to civil unrest that has swept the country since the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a police officer pinned him to the ground for nine minutes during an arrest.

“I’ve asked Sen. Tim Scott to lead a group that is working on a proposal to allow us to respond to the obvious racial discrimination that we’ve seen on full display on our television screens over the last two weeks,” McConnell said after Scott briefed his GOP colleagues on the emerging legislation during a lunch meeting.

“Tim spent most of our lunch explaining his proposal that’s in the works,” he added. 

Scott told reporters after the lunch that the bill will likely include anti-lynching legislation that stalled on the Senate floor last week as well as proposals to review no-knock warrants, such as the one that led to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and funding for more police body cameras.

Scott said “ours is a notification act so that we can understand and appreciate the 30,000 plus no knocks that happen around the country to see where they’re happening so we have more information.” 

“Also part of it has to do with the use of force that leads to death or serious bodily injury, collecting more data. Right now about 40 percent of the police departments are reporting to the DoJ through the FBI. We’d like to see all the agencies report so we’re going to provide either resources for it or perhaps reduce grants if they don’t,” he said.

“There’s a lot of talk around the use of body cameras and the importance of doing so,” he added, noting that fewer than 20 million police body cameras are currently being funded.

“We’d like to see that number grow significantly and some penalties if you’re not using the body cameras,” he added. 

Scott said he is also looking at proposals for police de-escalation training and bias training under consideration as well as the establishment of a national police commission study to examine “best practices that can be used across all departments.”

Scott said his working group includes Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Scott met with McConnell Monday evening in McConnell’s Capitol office to provide an update on his work.

McConnell on Tuesday afternoon said it’s important for his party to have a legislative response to the death of Floyd, Taylor, who was shot by plain-clothed officers in her home, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot by two white men attempting a citizens arrest. All three were African Americans. 

“Absolutely I think it’s important to have a response,” McConnell said.

“None of us have had the experience of being an African American in this country and dealing with this discrimination, which persists here some fifty years after the 1964 Civil Rights bill and the 1965 Civil Rights bill,” he said of the vast majority of his Senate GOP colleagues who are white.

“We’re still wrestling with America’s original sin,” McConnell added, referring to slavery. “We try to get better but every now and then it’s perfectly clear we’re a long way from the finish line.

“I think the best way for the Senate Republicans to go forward on this is to listen to one of our own, who’s had these experiences — he’s had them since he’s been in the United States Senate,” McConnell said of Scott, who has told colleagues he has been stopped on Capitol Hill by police and believes his skin color had something to do with it.

Scott revealed four years ago that an officer once told him: “The pin, I know. You, I don’t,” when the senator displayed the pin indicating his membership in the chamber. 

McConnell on Tuesday said Republicans would decide to proceed legislatively once Scott and his team make their recommendations. 

“Once Sen. Scott and his  team decide what to recommend, we’ll let you know,” he said.

Tags Ben Sasse James Lankford John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Shelley Moore Capito Tim Scott

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