Scott’s Challenge: Uniting Senate GOP Behind Police Overhaul

WASHINGTON – The GOP is looking for an answer on how to respond to national outrage over the police killing of George Floyd. And they are looking to Sen. Tim Scott to provide it.

The question is whether Scott, the lone black GOP senator, will be able to pull Republicans behind legislation in the roiling aftermath of Floyd’s death. That challenge is steep enough in a mostly white party led by self-proclaimed “law and order” President Donald Trump. But Scott also is batting back at members of the black community accusing him of allowing Republicans to use him in an election year to right racial wrongs.

Scott, who has kept lines of communication open with Trump even after the president called white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, “good people,” is asking critics: Who better?

“Not surprising the last 24 hours have seen a lot of ‘token’ ‘boy’ or ‘you’re being used’ in my mentions,” Scott tweeted Wednesday. “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?”

The 54-year-old former House member describes himself as “the son of a son of a son of a slave,” a descendant of a West African family who arrived in the U.S. aboard a slave ship, probably in Charleston, South Carolina, two centuries ago.

“For all of my life and for all of my family’s heritage, we had tried to avoid being confrontational,” Scott writes in “Opportunity Knocks: How Hard Work, Community and Business Can Improve Lives and End Poverty.” “Always, we believed, the primary aim should be to find common ground in order to move forward.”

The police killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and others have made problems with police conduct and accountability hard for Republicans to ignore. Scott’s legislation is part of a burst of GOP-written bills on the subject. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to stop sending surplus U.S. military equipment to local law enforcement. And Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah is backing several bipartisan bills to change police practices.

But the challenge is different for Scott, in part because of the trust issues between the black community, the Republican Party and McConnell. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said in a telephone interview that Scott will have succeeded if he “produces a good product.”

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