Tim Scott ‘hopeful’ deal can be reached with Democrats on US policing reform

Tim Scott, the Republican senator leading negotiations with Democrats over police reform, who insisted during his rebuttal to Joe Biden’s address to Congress the US was not a racist country, said on Sunday he was “hopeful” a deal can be reached.

Scott, from South Carolina and the only Black Republican in the Senate, said he saw progress in talks which stalled last summer as protests raged following the killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans.

“One of the reasons why I’m hopeful is because my friends on the left aren’t looking for the issue, they’re looking for a solution, and the things that I offered last year are more popular this year,” the senator told CBS’s Face the Nation.

“The goal isn’t for Republicans or Democrats to win, but for communities to feel safer and our officers to feel respected. If we can accomplish those two major goals, the rest will be history.”

The talks are intended to break an impasse over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March but is frozen by the 50-50 split in the Senate.

Negotiations have taken on increasing urgency following the high-profile killings of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis and Andrew Brown in North Carolina, Black men shot in their vehicles by officers, killings which sparked outrage.

“The country supports this reform and Congress should act,” Biden said on Wednesday during his address on Capitol Hill.

A panel including Scott, the New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker and Karen Bass, the author of the House bill and a Democrat from California, met on Thursday to discuss key elements including individual liability for officers who abuse their power or otherwise overstep the line.

Republicans strongly oppose many of the proposals but Booker said it had been “a promising week”.

Scott, a rising star in Republican ranks, said he was well-placed to help steer the discussion.

“One of the reasons why I asked to lead this police reform conversation on my side of the House is because I personally understand the pain of being stopped 18 times driving while Black,” he said.

“And I have also seen the beauty of when officers go door to door with me on Christmas morning, delivering presents to kids in the most underserved communities. So I think I bring an equilibrium to the conversation.”

Scott said he was confident major sticking points in the Senate version of the proposed legislation could be overcome and the bill aligned to that which passed the House.

“Think about the [parts] of the two bills that are in common … data collection,” he said. “I think through negotiations and conversations we are closer on no-knock warrants and chokeholds, and then there’s something called Section 1033 that has to do with getting government equipment from the military for local police.

“I think we’re making progress there too, so we have literally been able to bring these two bills very close together.”

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, placed no timeline on when a revised version of the bill would get a vote.

“We will bring it to the floor when we are ready, and we will be ready when we have a good, strong bipartisan bill,” she said on Thursday. “That is up to the Senate and then we will have it in the House, because it will be a different bill.”

On the issue of whether lawsuits could be filed against police departments rather than individual officers, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, said: “We’re moving towards a reasonable solution.”

Scott said the issue was “another reason why I’m more optimistic this time”.

He said: “We want to make sure the bad apples are punished and we’ve seen that, through the convictions of Michael Slager when he shot Walter Scott in the back to the George Floyd convictions.

“Those are promising signs, but the real question is how do we change the culture of policing? I think we do that by making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee.”

Others senators in the negotiations include Dick Durbin of Illinois and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, senior figures in their parties.

Scott also broke with Republicans who support Donald Trump’s big lie that the presidential election was rigged, saying the party could only move on once it realised “the election is over, Joe Biden is the president of the United States”.

On CNN’s State of the Union, Susan Collins, a moderate Republican senator from Maine, appeared to acknowledge Scott’s rising profile.

“We are not a party that is led by just one person,” she said. “There are many prominent upcoming younger men and women in our party who hold great promise for leading us.”

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