Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has apologized to Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) for referring to his police reform legislation as a “token” solution. Given that Scott is the only black Republican U.S. Senator, the word “token” was taken to have racial connotations.
According to Emily Hampsten, Durbin’s communications director, the senator apologized to Scott shortly after realizing his words offended him.
“The minute Sen. Durbin heard that he had offended Sen. Scott, he sought him out on the floor and apologized,” said Hampsten, as reported by Politico. “What Sen. Durbin took issue with in his floor speech was not Sen. Scott’s bill, but that the Senate Majority Leader would short circuit this critical debate and fail to make the changes needed to prevent the killing of Black Americans by police officers.”
On Wednesday, Durbin referred to Tim Scott’s police reform as “a token, half-hearted approach.” The rebuke infuriated Scott, who then castigated Durbin on the Senate Floor in an emotional speech.
“To have the senator from Illinois refer to the process, this bill, this opportunity to restore hope and confidence from the American people, from African Americans, from communities of color, to call this a token process hurts my soul for my country, for our people,” Scott said. “To think that the concept of anti-lynching as a part of this legislation to be considered a token piece of legislation because perhaps I’m African American, the only one on this side of the aisle, I don’t know what he meant, but … those comments again hurts the soul.”
“On the other side, they are wanting to race-bait on tokenism, while this legislation would provide resources for body cameras, for anti-lynching, for de-escalation training. But no, we can’t concern ourselves with the families I have sat with at the White House yesterday,” he continued. “We would rather have a conversation about tearing this country apart, making it a binary choice between law enforcement and communities of color instead of working for the American people.”
Later, Durbin gave his own floor speech in which he referred to Scott as a “friend” while commending his efforts to enact police reform, which he said should be conducted in a bipartisan fashion.
Scott’s bill on police reform would “require additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of ‘no-knock warrants,’ and provides incentives for chokehold bans,” according to Politico. The bill will also seek to provide grants for departments to acquire body cameras while making lynching a federal crime.
“Democrats, however, criticized the GOP bill for not going far enough. Senate and House Democrats have their own proposal, which would offer sweeping changes, including banning chokeholds, limiting qualified immunity for police officers and banning no knock warrants for federal drug cases,” added Politico.
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