Fact check: Scott says Democrats blocked his police reform bill
In June 2020 Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., proposed a police reform bill. Democrats wrote their own bill in June 2020. It partially overlapped with Scott's proposal, but it was more sweeping. It passed the House but didn't receive a vote in the Senate.Posted — Updated
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who has called on lawmakers to work together to achieve common ground, said that he proposed a police reform proposal last year, but Democrats thwarted his efforts.
"In 2015, after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year, after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal," Scott said. "But my Democratic colleagues blocked it. I extended an olive branch. I offered them amendments. But Democrats used the filibuster to block the debate from even happening."
Scott said negotiations with Democrats continue on police reform.
"My friends across the aisle all seem to want the issue more than they wanted a solution," Scott said. "But I’m still working. I’m hopeful that this will be different."
Scott made the comments during his GOP response to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress.
Scott did propose a police reform bill in June 2020, but Democrats, who preferred their own version, blocked it. Each side accused the other of failing to negotiate in good faith, and neither party got its measure passed into law.
Republicans and Democrats wrote competing police reform proposals in 2020
Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Senate Republicans and House Democrats wrote separate proposals for police reform.
Civil rights groups like the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund objected to Scott's bill and said it lacked a "strong accountability framework for police officers." The group said it steered more funding to police agencies rather than reimagining public safety and routing money to social services.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called for creating a bipartisan group to reach a deal, but Republicans sought a vote.
Scott’s bill needed 60 votes to move forward, but it fell short on June 24, when Senate Democrats blocked the bill on a 55-45 vote. Two Democrats, Doug Jones of Alabama and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, along with independent Angus King of Maine, joined Republicans in voting to move the bill forward.
Democrats dismissed the GOP bill as a "political game" that didn’t address the concerns of equal justice for Black Americans.
"We offered them opportunities, at least 20 I offered, to change it," Scott said. "Their answer to me? You can't offer 20 amendments. I said why not? Because Mitch McConnell won't give 20 amendments. I spoke to Mitch McConnell. He said you can have 20 amendments. I told them that."
Steven S. Smith, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, said the Democrats’ vote was an example of minority obstruction.
The context is that the House had crafted their own version that they preferred.
"Democrats wanted a sign that Republicans would move in their direction on the issue and found the Scott measure to be an inadequate alternative," Smith said. "Both sides could have gone public with half-way measures. Neither side did so."
The Democrats’ legislation passed the House June 25, a day after Scott’s Senate version hit a wall. But the House version didn’t reach a vote in the Senate. Democrats reintroduced the legislation this year, and it passed the House in March but has yet to reach a vote in the Senate.
Bipartisan lawmakers currently negotiating police reform
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s recent conviction for manslaughter and murder led to renewed calls by politicians to pass police reform.
One key sticking point for Republicans has been Democrats’ efforts to limit qualified immunity as a defense in civil lawsuits against police officers. Scott has called on making it easier for victims to sue police departments rather than individual officers.
In 2020, Scott said Democrats’ efforts on qualified immunity was a "poison pill."
Scott says Democrats blocked his efforts at police reform.
Scott proposed a bill in June 2020, but Democrats blocked it from moving forward. Scott omits the reason that Senate Democrats blocked the measure: They preferred the House version of a police reform bill Democrats put forward the same month.
While both parties faced pressure to adopt police reform, partisan bickering and maneuvers led to nothing passing, and efforts stalled weeks later. Bipartisan negotiations are now underway, but it remains to be seen whether they will reach a compromise.
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