Republicans and Democrats in Congress are still in active talks on a proposal to reform policing on the federal level, and Senator Tim Scott tells TIME he remains hopeful lawmakers could advance legislation.
Scott, the South Carolina Republican who has spearheaded the GOP’s efforts, says he has continued to meet and speak with Representative Karen Bass, the California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as family members of victims of police violence.
“Our hope is, of course, that those in the Senate who want to delay until after the election in hopes of getting the bill they want would realize that two-thirds of what you want is a great place to start,” Scott said in a Time 100 Talks interview on Wednesday. “Let’s not deny the communities that are suffering today legislative victories that give them reasons to be hopeful in the process.”
Scott’s comments might come as a surprise to outside observers who largely assumed federal police reform was stalled for the time being after Senate Democrats blocked Scott’s bill from coming to the floor June 24, saying it didn’t go far enough. House Democrats passed their own, more sweeping police reform bill June 25, but the Senate has not taken it up. The efforts came in the wake of national racial justice protests.
“One of the family members told me, ‘Never ever say it’s dead,'” said Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican. “Because their brothers are dead, but police reform can never be dead. It may be delayed, but it will never be denied.”
Capitol Hill is notorious for its inability to work on more than one major issue at a time, and as its attention turns toward coronavirus response, the window for action before the election is quickly disappearing. Scott noted there are multiple areas of agreement between parties, including the importance of collecting better national data and the need for more body cameras and de-escalation training. Both chambers’ proposals leave activists’ calls to defund the police unanswered. The sticking point, Scott said, was qualified immunity.
Following the death of U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Friday, Scott also reflected on the Civil Rights icon, noting that when Scott was elected to Congress, Lewis was one of the first lawmakers to invite him to his office. On his way out, Lewis remarked that Scott would be in a “unique position” because of his identities as a Black man and Republican. “You’re an African American who happens to be a Republican, and that’s going to cause some consternation,” Scott recalls Lewis told him. “He said, ‘Please remember to never let life make you bitter.'” He went on to call Lewis one of his heroes.
As coronavirus cases continue to rise in the U.S., Scott argued that America has been testing more people compared to other countries, which, he says, is why it has more cases relative to other parts of the globe, echoing an argument that President Donald Trump has also made. Multiple analyses and data have shown that the number of cases in the U.S. is outpacing testing — in some states more dramatically than in others — and it’s not only widely available testing that has led to uncovering more cases.