Jun 25, 2020
Sen. Tim Scott Speech Transcript on Police Reform After JUSTICE Act Vote
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) gave a Senate floor speech pleading for police reform bill the JUSTICE Act after the bill failed to pass. He strongly criticized Democrats for their “no” votes on the bill. Read the transcript here.
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Tim Scott: (00:09)
Thank you, Senator Purdue. Mr. President, there’s a scripture in the Bible, in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 33, somewhere around verse six. And 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 that Senator Purdue 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 in the streets of America and we see more unrest and we see more challenging situations, realize that there is danger coming.
Tim Scott: (01:21)
The watchman’s responsibility is a 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.
Tim Scott: (01:58)
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 were people who lived in worse poverty than I, but that is poverty from my perspective. And I lived in that poverty.
Tim Scott: (03:05)
And one of the challenging situations of poverty that manifests is hopelessness. And I was that hopeless kid in America, mired in poverty, in a single parent household under the impression that the only way 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 failing at 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.
Tim Scott: (04:24)
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 powerful family, a praying grandmother, and a whole lot of faith. And 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 as a youngster, I joined the NAACP, joined the Urban League, joined many organizations in the community because I knew that a 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?
Tim Scott: (05:23)
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 Purdue alluded to, the death of yet another African American man, George Floyd’s, his murder is why the country has given us the opportunity to lead.
Tim Scott: (06:50)
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 were 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. There’s not just five, there’s 20.” I said, “How about 20 amendments?” And they walked out.
Tim Scott: (07:41)
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 or playing for those in the insulated chambers.
Tim Scott: (08:14)
We’re playing for presidential politics, that 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. And their answer to me was, “You can’t offer us 20 amendments.” I said, “Why not?” They said, “Well, because Mitch McConnell, won’t give you 20 amendments.” I spoke to Mitch McConnell, he says, “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-
Tim Scott: (09:03)
They want one thing. I’m going to get to that. So I asked my friends. I said, “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.” I’m like, “Well tell me the problem.” Well the problem is that we’re not collecting data. I’m like, “Well wait a second. I could have sworn when I wrote the legislation, we were collecting data.” So I flipped through the pages and realized we’re collecting data for serious bodily injury and death. They said, “Well we want to collect data on all uses of force.” I said, “Put it in an amendment and I’ll support it.”
Tim Scott: (09:46)
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 is 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.
Tim Scott: (10:35)
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 deescalation training, duty to intervene, best practices. I said, “In the legislation, in the legislation, in the legislation, in the legislation.” And I was like, “You know.” I don’t have any hair, so I didn’t pull it out, but I said next, I said, “Let’s talk about tactics then.” They said, “Well you don’t ban choke holds.” I was like, “I could have sworn I banned choke holds in there somewhere.” And then I read the bill. They don’t ban choke holds on the local level, the state level. You know why? There’s this little thing called the Constitution. They can’t ban choke holds. Eric Garner’s situation would not have been cured by their band on choke holds because their ban on choke holds were for federal agents. Our legislation instructed the attorney general to ban choke holds for federal agents. And what else did we do? Well we said we would reduce funding by 20%. They’d reduce funding by 10%. So our penalty was twice the penalty of the other side. And this is supposed to be an issue.
Tim Scott: (12:24)
Mr. President, I’m not sure we have found the issue. We haven’t. It’s not choke holds, it’s not the duty to intervene, it’s not data collection, because I said on choke holds, “Senator,” it’s at their meeting with him. I said, “Senator, it’s your definition of choke holds. That’s the problem.” I assume that when you think of choke holds, you think of a choke hold, but there is a distinction of the carotid air flow versus blood flow. They said, “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.” I said, “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, and you have the amendments to do so.” I even said something that I didn’t think I would say. I said, “What about a manager’s amendment? Let’s just fix everything in one fell swoop.” They said, “No thank you.”
Tim Scott: (14:07)
So I find it disingenuous that people say, “Well why don’t you just sit down with one member and work it out?” Well if a manager’s amendment won’t do it, if the five amendments that they wrote in a letter saying that they need to have these things fixed won’t do it, if 20 amendments won’t do it, you have an open process on the floor of the United States Senate that requires 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. It took me a long time to figure out the most obviously thing in the room. It’s not the what. I’ve listened to the press conferences, I’ve read the newspapers. I’m not sure that anyone who’s 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.
Tim Scott: (15:34)
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 am the person in our conference who has experienced first-hand racial discrimination, racial profiling by law enforcement, and I’ll still a fan because I believe that 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.”
Tim Scott: (16:35)
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, 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 can 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’ve 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. See, 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.
Tim Scott: (18:03)
I’ve experienced that. I understand the traffic stops. I understand that when I’m walking down the streets, and some young lady clutches onto her purse, and my instinct is to get a little further away because I don’t want any issues with anybody. I understand that. 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 George 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.
Tim Scott: (19:20)
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. I am telling you, the most loyal part of the Democrat construct are black communities. 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. Instead of having a debate on that today and getting not five amendments, but 20 amendments, a Manager’s Amendment, and instead of going forward and getting what you want now, they’ve decided to pump 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 bill they want in November.
Tim Scott: (20:53)
All they have to do is win the election. Then roll in January, and they get a 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 are 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 thought, “What the heck. I’ll throw in the Manager’s 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.
Tim Scott: (21:58)
How’s that for a return? How’s 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? 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 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. 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, on MSNBC, or CNN, it must not be true. That’s a problem.
Tim Scott: (23:12)
Let me just say this. I think we are willing to compete 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. 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. I’m going to wrap it up in two minutes here. It’s lunchtime. 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 and President 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, Ben. 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 isn’t. I know ain’t isn’t a word, but is not. He listened. At the end of our conversation, he simply said, “Tell me how to help those I’ve offended.” I didn’t know what to say. I pulled out of my back pocket and got Opportunities Zones. I didn’t go in there prepared for him to listen. That’s not supposed to be so 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.” I said, “Well, let’s work on Opportunities Zones together.” He said, “Yes.” I was like, “What?” He said, “Yes.”
Tim Scott: (25:28)
He was concerned enough about the community that he had literally just offended. He was concerned enough to go to work on their behalf. That’s why we have Opportunities Zones. I was like, “Well, this might work again.” I went back to the president and said, “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around the HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Yes.” We said, “Yes.” Let me just say this. When we started saying yes, we controlled the White House. We controlled the Senate. We controlled the House. It wasn’t because some Democrat came over and said, “In order to get our votes, you got to do this.” That’s not what happened. He said yes because the Republican party said yes.
Tim Scott: (26:13)
We stood together with all three leavers of government under our control. We got Opportunity Zones done. We started the process of reinvesting in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 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’ve been alive. Literally more money for HBCUs, ever, brought to you by the Republican party. I said, “Well, if that’s working, let’s do it again.” We went to stem cell research, which stem cell research for sickle cell anemia, which is a 100%…
Tim Scott: (27:02)
For Sickle cell anemia, which is a hundred percent basically speaking 99.95%, African American disease. He said, “Yes.” Lamar Alexander, the Chairman of our Health Committee. We were fighting over funding for HBCUs. We made it. Permanent permitted funding for the HBCUs led by a Republican Chairman of the Education Committee, President Trump signs it, we have delivered historic funding and permanent funding for HBCUs. Now I’m not going to go to the pre because I’m running out of time. I’m not going to go to the pre-pandemic numbers in minority communities for unemployment. Unemployment, not only at 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.
Tim Scott: (28:08)
It works. Seven million new jobs, two thirds with African Americans, Hispanics, and women and 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 or so billion dollars and $450 billion, that would be multiplied in the commercial facilities by probably seven or eight. Now the $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’ve got 12 more pages to go.
Tim Scott: (29:19)
It’s like being at church for the third closing. Literally, I’ve 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 the White House in the hands of Republicans, we pass 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 three levers in our hands. I’m frustrated.
Tim Scott: (30:10)
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 and 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 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. 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 the entire nation about the importance of a duopoly and not a monopoly. Because look at your results. Look at the results you’re getting. And by the way, when this bill is gone and next week we’re on the DOD 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. If we could do something right now.
Tim Scott: (31:56)
Here’s the truth. In Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia. All these cities could have banned chokeholds 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 ROI 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 going to compete for their vote. Are you?