Senator Tim Scott Delivers Fiery Speech on Senate Floor After Senate Democrats Stonewall Legislation on Police Reform Across America

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), leader of the JUSTICE Act taskforce, took to the Senate Floor after the Senate Democrats stonewalled legislation on police reform in American communities.

Below are a few quotes from the senator’s speech today:

“Mr. President, there is danger coming. The source of this danger is not the failure of this bill on this floor at this time. This is merely a symptom of the danger that I believe is right in front of us.”

“Today, we lost a vote on a piece of legislation that would have led to systemic change in the relationship between communities of color and the law enforcement community. We would have broken the concept in this nation that you have to be for law enforcement or for communities of color. That is a false binary choice.”

“My friends on the other side just said no. Not no to the legislation… they just said no.”

“This process is not broken because of the legislation. This is a broken process beyond that one piece of legislation. It’s one of the reasons why communities of color – Americans of all colors – are losing faith in the institutions of authority and power in this nation.”

“If you don’t like what you see, change it. We offered them opportunities to change it.”

“The actual problem is not what is being offered. It is who is offering it…. As a black man, I get the ‘who’ being the problem. It’s one of the reasons why I went to Senator McConnell and said I want to lead this conversation…. What I missed in this issue is that the stereotyping of Republicans is just as toxic to the outcomes of the most vulnerable communities in this nation…. They cannot allow this party to be seen as a party that reaches out to all communities in this nation.”

“The irony of the story is not the bill. The irony of the story is that today and through June and July what we’ll have is- instead of getting 70 percent of what you wanted, or more – you’re going to get 0.”


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Transcript as delivered

Thank you, Senator Perdue. Mr. President, there is a scripture in the Bible in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 33, somewhere around verse 36. That scripture talks about a watchman on a wall. And his job is to simply say there’s danger coming. 

Very important job. The watchman’s job is to simply say there is danger coming. I had that conversation, as Senator Perdue spoke about, five years ago. I didn’t find anyone on the other side willing to engage in that conversation then, and here we are five years later. There is danger coming. I want us to hear this clearly because as we look out on the streets of America and we see more unrest and we see more challenging situations, realize that there is danger coming. The watchman’s responsibility is to call out the danger, and as the bloodshed happens, the blood, according to Ezekiel, will not be on the hands of the watchman. But if he does not shout out, if he does not articulate that there is danger coming, then the blood is on his hands. 

Mr. President, there is danger coming. We are in dangerous times. The source of this danger is not the failure of this bill on this floor at this time. Nope. This is merely a symptom of the danger that I believe is right in front of us. This is only a symptom of a much deeper issue, a systemic problem. Let me explain. I’m a kid who grew up in poverty, abject poverty in many ways. There’s much worse poverty in America and certainly around the world than I grew up in. 

I’m talking about the poverty where when you come home and you hit the light switch, there’s no light. I’m talking about the kind of poverty that when you had a phone attached to the wall and you picked it up, there’s no sound. There are people who lived in worse poverty than I, but that is poverty from my perspective. I lived in that poverty and one of the challenging situations of poverty that manifests is hopelessness. 

I was that hopeless kid in America. Mired in poverty, in a single-parent household, under the impression that the only way that I can escape poverty is through athletics or entertainment. I was hopeless. And from seven years old to 14 years old, I drifted, and all drifting leads in the wrong direction. I failed out of high school, embarrassed my mom, who was working 16 hours a day because I felt like there was no hope in this country for a little black boy like me. 14 years old. Failed Spanish, English, world geography, and civics. Civics, as we all know, is as close as it gets to politics. I will say that this body as a whole today is failing civics. We’re failing at politics. 

But as the Lord would have it, I had an amazing mother who believed that it was her responsibility to pray me out of the hard situations I found myself, and then I had the good fortune of meeting a mentor after I got through summer school. They redirected me. I pulled myself together with the help of a praying family, a praying grandmother, and a whole lot of faith. I caught up with my class. I graduated on time, earned a small football scholarship, went to college, earned a degree in political science. 

Along the way, I joined the NAACP, joined the Urban League, joined many organizations in the community because I knew that part of my responsibility was to be socially engaged in making a difference, no matter how small that difference could be. The one organization I didn’t even think about joining was the Republican Party. 

Why would I ever think about joining the Republican Party? Because growing up every African American, every black person I knew of, was wed to the Democrat Party, because it’s better to have a seat in the room than be outside. That was the heritage I grew up in. Let me fast-forward to where we are today and I’ll return to that. 

Today we lost — I lost — a vote on a piece of legislation that would have led to systemic change in the relationship between the communities of color and the law enforcement community. We would have broken this concept in this nation that somehow some way you have to either be for law enforcement or for communities of color. That is a false binary choice. It’s just not true. This legislation spoke to the important issues that have brought us here today. We wouldn’t be here if it were not, as Senator Perdue alluded to, for the death of yet another African American man, George Floyd. 

His murder is why the country has given us the opportunity to lead, to lead. And my friends on the other side just said no. Not no to the legislation. They just said no. And why am I saying that they didn’t just say no to the legislation? It’s because along the way I sat down with many of them and said, what do you need? And Senator Schumer sent a letter telling — I believe it was Senator McConnell — there are five things in the legislation that needed to be improved. I said, let’s give them the five amendments. I sat down with more senators and they said, wait, wait, wait. There’s not just five. There’s 20. I said, how about 20 amendments? And they walked out.

You see, this process is not broken because of the legislation. This is a broken process beyond that one piece of legislation. It’s one of the reasons why communities of color, young Americans of all colors, are losing faith in the institutions of authority and power in this nation. Because we’re playing small ball. We’re playing for those in the insulated chambers. We’re playing for presidential politics. That’s small ball. Playing the big boys game is playing for the kids who can’t represent themselves. And if you don’t like what you see, change it. We offered them opportunities, at least 20 I offered, to change it. 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. We went to a press conference yesterday and we said an open process. They didn’t want an open process. They want one thing and I’m going to get to that. So I asked my friends, what is it, what is it you don’t like about where we’re going? They said well, the data collection area. This is a problem. The data collection area is a problem. Tell me the problem. 

The problem is we’re not collecting data. Wait a second. I could have sworn when I wrote the legislation we were collecting data. I flipped through the pages and realized we’re collecting data — collecting data for serious bodily injury and death. They said we want to collect data on all uses of force. I said put it in an amendment and I’ll support it. That was just one bone of contention. I said, well, tell me another one. They said, our bone of contention is that we need you to ban no-knock warrants because of the Breonna Taylor situation. 

I said your bill does not ban no-knock warrants for the Breonna Taylor situation. Your bill bans it for federal agents. There’s not a secret service agent showing up at Breonna Taylor’s door. That was a local police department. So the fact that they’re saying that they want to ban no-knock warrants, knowing they cannot ban no-knock warrants tells me that this is not about the underlying issue. It’s bigger than that. I said well, I’ll give you an amendment, though, and we can have that fight on the floor of the United States Senate. As a matter of fact, I said, tell me any issue you have with the legislation. Well, we went to de-escalation training, the duty to intervene, best practices. I said in the legislation, in the legislation, in the legislation. You know, I don’t have any hair so I didn’t pull it out. Here’s where I said: let’s talk about tactics then. They said you don’t ban chokeholds. I could have sworn I banned chokeholds in there somewhere. 

And then I read the bill. They don’t ban chokeholds on the local level, the state level. You know why? There’s this little thing called the constitution. They can’t ban chokeholds. Eric Garner’s situation would not have been cured by their ban on chokeholds because their ban on chokeholds were for federal agents. Our legislation instructed the attorney general to ban chokeholds for federal agents. And what else did we do? Well, we said we would reduce funding by 20%. They reduced funding by 10%. So our penalty was twice the penalty of the other side, and this is supposed to be an issue. 

Mr. President, I’m not sure we have found the issue. We haven’t. It’s not chokeholds. It’s not the duty to intervene, data collection. I sat there meeting with them. They said “Senator, it’s your definition of chokeholds.” That’s a problem. See, I assume that when you think of chokeholds, you think of a chokehold. But there is a distinction of the carotid air flow versus blood flow. Ours only covered one, not the other. I said okay, you have an amendment. I’ll vote for it. We’ll change it. They said we’re not here to talk about that. Wait a second. If we’re not here to debate the issue on the motion to proceed so that we can not fix 50% of the bill, not 70% of the bill, but literally slivers, slight changes on parts of the bill that would move this entire process forward. 

You have the amendments to do so. I even said something that I didn’t think I would say. I said what about a managers’ amendment. Let’s just fix everything in one fail swoop. They said no thank you. So I find it disingenuous when people say why don’t you sit down with one member and work it out. If a manager’s amendment won’t do it, if the five amendments — five things in the letter they said they wanted fixed won’t do it, if twenty amendments won’t do it, you have an open process on the United States senate that requires us 60 votes to get off of the bill, then what, pray tell, is the problem? Well, I finally realized what the problem is, Mr. President. The actual problem is not what is being offered. It is who is offering it. Took me a long time to figure out the most obvious thing in the room. It’s not they what. 

I’ve listened to the press conferences. I’ve read the newspapers. I’m not sure anyone who is actually reporting on the bill has actually read the bill. Because the next time I see another story or editorial that says we don’t do this. Their bill does that. And you put the two together and it’s not just off, it’s just dead wrong. So I realized finally it’s the who that’s offering this. Now, I have dealt with the problem of who before. 

As a black man, I get the who being the problem. It’s one of the reasons why I went to Senator McConnell and said I want to lead this conversation. I’m the person in our conference who has experienced firsthand racial discrimination, racial profiling by law enforcement, and I’m still a fan because I believe most law enforcement officers are good. But I’m the guy, I am your guy, Mitch, because this is my issue. This is an issue for every poor kid growing up in every poor neighborhood in this nation who feels like when I leave my home for a jog, I might not come back. This is a serious issue. This is an issue for every single kid who says is this my country?

We’ve heard no. This is the issue that we should be solving, not the legislative issue. That’s not the issue. The issue is do we matter? We had an opportunity to say you matter so much, we’ll stay on this floor for as long as it takes and as many amendments as it takes for us to get to the issue that says yes, you matter. But we said no today. 56 people said yes. Four short, four short of saying yes. Yes to having enough information to direct training and resources in such a way that we could hold people accountable. 

We were four votes short of saying yes to having a powerful tool of pooling resources to compel behavior on choke holds. Because I believe if we’d gotten on the bill, we would have passed this bill. But that is the problem, by the way. That’s the who I’m talking about. As a black guy, I know how it feels to walk into a store and have the little clerk follow me around, even as a United States Senator. I get that. I’ve experienced that. I understand the traffic stops. I understand that when I’m walking down the street and some Young lady clutches on to her purse and my instinct is to get a little further away because I don’t want any issues with anybody, I understand that.

But what I missed in this issue is that the stereotyping of Republicans is just as toxic and poison to the outcomes of the most vulnerable communities in this nation. That’s the issue. When Speaker Pelosi says one of the most heinous things I can imagine: that the Republicans are actually trying to cover up murder, the murder of Feorge Floyd with our legislation, that’s not politics. That’s not a game to win. That’s you lose. You will sooner or later lose. But immediately every kid around the nation that heard that nonsense lost that moment. 

You see, what’s become evident to me is that she knows something that we all know. She knows that she can say that because the democrats have a monopoly on the black vote. And no matter the return on their loyalty — I am telling you the most loyal part of the democrat construct, black communities. And no matter the loyalty of the people, the return they get will always continue to go down because in monopolies, you start devaluing your customer. You see, today we could have given at the very minimum 70% of what they say would be important for the people we say we serve. But instead of having a debate on that today and getting not five amendments but 20 amendments, a managers amendment, instead of going forward and getting what you want now, they’ve decided to punt this ball until the election. You know why?

Because they believe that the polls reflect a 15-point deficit on our side. Therefore they can get the vote they want in November. All they have to do is win the election. Then roll in January and they get the chance to write the police reform bill without our support at all. Well, this is what they did in the House, right? No amendments in the house from Republicans on their bill. We’re saying amendments on our side. Democrats are saying no amendments in the House but you, here in the United States Senate because we are the world’s greatest deliberative body, you can have amendments. Not in the House. Not under Speaker Pelosi. But under leader McConnell, you get at least 20 amendments. I’ll throw in the managers amendment, too. That was not good enough because the irony of the story is not the bill. The irony of the story is that today and through the rest of June and all of July, what we’re going to have here is, instead of getting 70% of what you wanted or more, you’re going to get zero. 

How is that for a return? How is that for loyalty? How does that work for the little kid at a home in North Charleston where Walter Scott got shot? How does that work around the country when instead of getting 70% of what you wanted, today and tomorrow and next week you get zero. And you’re going to wait until the election to get more. Okay. Well, why wouldn’t you take the 80% now, see if you can win the election and add on the other 20%. You’ve got to be kidding me. Because the who matters, they cannot allow this party to be seen as a party that reaches out to all communities in this nation, and unfortunately without the kind of objectivity in the media that is necessary to share the message of what’s actually happening, no one will ever know. 

Because if you don’t read it in the paper, it must not have happened. If you don’t see it on tv, NBC or CNN, it must not be true. That’s a problem. Let me just say this. I think we are willing to be for every vote, everywhere, all the time. That might not be true in every corridor of the nation, but it’s true in most corridors of the nation. And this party has reinforced that truth, not by the words coming out of my mouth, but by the actual legislation signed into law. Senator Perdue started talking about the important work that we did on opportunity zones, and i’m going to wrap it up in two minutes here. It’s lunch time. 2017, we passed tax reform. 

I included in the opportunity zones $75 billion, real money, to the most distressed communities in this nation. How did that happen? Well, me andPresident Trump had a serious disagreement on his comments after Charlottesville. He being a person that I was not looking forward to having a conversation with, invited me to the oval office. I sat down there and I said what do you want to talk about? The president said tell me about your perspective on racial history. I was stunned because if you know President Trump like I know President Trump, his love language is not words of encouragement. It just ain’t. It’s not. But he listened. And at the end of our conversation, he simply said tell me how to help those I have offended. I didn’t know what to say. So I pulled out of my back pocket opportunity zones. I didn’t go in prepared for him to listen. It’s not supposed to be funny, but it is. I mean, I didn’t expect him to listen. But he did. He listened. 

He leaned in and he said tell me how to help the folks I have offended. Let’s work on opportunity zones together. He said yes. I said what? He said yes. He was concerned enough about the communities he had literally just offended, he was concerned enough to go to work on their behalf, and that’s why we have opportunity zones. I thought well, this might work again. So I went back to the president and said, you know, there is a lot of work that needs to be done around the HBCU’s, historically black colleges and universities. He said yes. He said yes. 

We said yes. And let me just say this. When we started saying yes, we controlled the White House, we controlled the Senate, and we controlled the House. So it wasn’t because some Democrat came over here and said in order to get our votes, you have to do this. That’s not what happened. He said yes because the Republican Party said yes. 

We stood together with all three leaders of government under our control — all three levers of government under our control. We got the opportunity zones done. We started the process of reinvesting in historically black colleges and universities. And the head of the united negro college fund said at my last fly-in that this is a record level of funding ever. His words, not mine. I’m not sure what ever is. Maybe that’s longer than I have been alive. Literally more money for HBCU’s ever. Brought to you by the Republican Party. 

I said well, if that’s working, let’s do it again. So we went to stem cell research, stem cell research for sickle cell anemia, which is 100% basically — a 99. 95% African American disease. He said yes. Lamar Alexander, the head, the chairman of our help committee, we were fighting over funding for HBCU’s. We made it permanent, permanent funding for the HBCU’sled by a Republican chairman of the education committee, president trump signs it. We have delivered historic funding and permanent funding for HBCU’s. I’m not going to go to the — because i’m running out of time. I’m not going to go through the pre-pandemic numbers in minority communities for unemployment. Unemployment not only had a record low but we had labor force participation rates increasing. Let me say that differently. 

Not only did we get more jobs for Black folks and Brown folks, the number of folks in the community started having an increase in the number of folks working. This is called basic Conservative politics. It works. Seven million new jobs, two-thirds with African Americans, Hispanics, and women. And in a full economy, all boats started rising. Don’t believe me. Check your accounts. That’s what it looks like. 

Covid-19 hit us, and what did we do? We not only approved $2. 3 trillion and then another $500 billion or so, and 3-point — $450 billion that would be multiplied in the commercial facilities by probably seven or eight. $6 trillion relief package. But what did we do inside that package? We targeted small businesses to save small businesses, and, by the way, we added a billion dollars for historically black colleges and universities. Let me tell you what the biggest threat is. The biggest threat is that this Republican Party keeps showing up and delivering. I have got 12 more pages to go. It’s like being at church with third closing. Literally, I have got 12 more pages of accomplishments to talk about. 

I’m not going to talk about it. Don’t look relieved. I’m not going to talk about it. I’m just here to tell you that if we’re going to be serious about criminal justice reform and we passed it with the house, the Senate, and theWhite House in the hands of Republicans. We passed criminal justice reform to make up for the democrat bill, the 1994 crime bill that locked up disproportionately African American men. 

The Republican party passed criminal justice reform. With all relievers in our hands. I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated. Because it’s not a competition for the best ideas. It’s not a competition for how to improve the poorest performing schools in America in the public education system that is consistently in Black and Brown communities, that your zip code determines the outcome of your life because you’re not going to have a good education because we won’t — we won’t touch teachers unions, we won’t touch education in the way that it needs to be touched. Governor Scott did before he was a senator. It’s one of the reasons I went down there and campaigned for him because he was serious about helping poor kids get up and move on. 

Let me just close with this. I don’t know what it’s going to take to wake up our entire nation about the importance of a duopoly and not a monopoly. Because look at your results. Look at the results you are getting. And by the way, when this bill is gone and next week we’re on the D. O. D. or something else, we’ll forget about this. We’ll move on. People will forget about it. And you know what’s going to happen? Something bad. And we’ll be right back here talking about what should have been done, what could have been done, why we must act now. 

I’m telling you I had this conversation five years ago. I’m having this conversation right now. We could do something right now. You know, here’s the truth. In Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, all these cities could have banned choke holds themselves. They could have increased the police reporting themselves. They could have more data information themselves. They could have de-escalation training themselves. They could have duty to intervene themselves, Minneapolis as well.

All these communities have been run by Democrats for decades. Decades. What is the R. O. I. For the poorest people in this nation? And I don’t blame them. I blame an elite political class with billions of dollars to do whatever they want to do and look at the results for the poorest, most vulnerable people in our nation. 

I’m willing to compete for their vote. Are you?


Both the JUSTICE Act and the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, the House Democrats’ bill, make lynching a federal crime, call for increased data collection, more training for law enforcement officials and incentives for law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, and creates a national criminal justice commission.

The full text of the JUSTICE Act is available here, and a section by section analysis can be found here.