Tim Scott, the sole Black Republican senator, has wiggled his way into the national spotlight after the GOP leadership handpicked him to deliver the political party’s rebuttal Wednesday during President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
As an influential vote in the bipartisan congressional effort to overhaul policing, Scott will have the opportunity to address Americans with this platform and the chance to put his policing bill at the forefront of his speech, CNN reported.
The South Carolina Republican said he’s done the right amount of practice.
“You do your homework and you do your best to … anticipate what he’s going to say and be in a position to share with the nation a different way, at least what I think is a better way,” Scott said on Tuesday.
The GOP leaders’ decision of selecting Scott to spearhead the rebuttal comes at a crucial moment as the nation grapples with a tense political divide. With the demands for social justice, reform and recent killings of Black people by white police officers, it is likely that Scott may directly address Black Americans.
Scott, however, has remained mostly silent about the overall details of his speech and has not confirmed whether he will address the overhaul policing effort, instead, he has said “I think [the speech] should be a surprise to everybody.”
Although known for his advocacy of conservative rhetorics, according to the Associated Press, Scott has delivered Senate speeches that bring attention to racial tensions with police and his own negative encounters with law enforcement over the years.
Scott, who is among only 11 Black senators in history, rose to Capitol Hill’s attention when he proposed legislation to create a national database of police use-of-force incidents after an officer killed an unarmed Black man. Walter Scott, was killed by a police officer in Scott’s hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina April 2015. In 2016, the 55-year-old detailed his experience as a Black man in America and just last summer drafted the since failed overhauling policing effort.
Now, with a new political field and as the nation experiences urgency to advance police reform, Scott has the center stage to again push his compromise bill made together with Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Rep. Karen Bass, D-CA, who authored the now House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. According to CNN, Scott met with the two members of Congress Monday to work out details of both parties’ sides.
One of the issues that remain is their position on qualified immunity, a legal defense used to protect police officers from civil litigation, and Section 242, a part of federal law that sets the bar for criminally prosecuting police officers, CNN reported. Scott suggested shifting responsibility to police departments while Bass believes both should be held accountable.
“Because the point is that we have got to hold police officers accountable,” Bass recently told CNN. “Essentially now the standard that’s used to prosecute an officer is so high. That’s why they’re never held to account. So you need to lower it just like you would for anybody.”
Scott said he believed both sides were making progress on their end goal.
“We are trying to get to a place where we can solve those issues,” he said.
Going forward, Scott, Bass and Booker remain equally respectable in their relationship with one another with the New Jersey senator saying on Tuesday, “Tim is a friend and an honest broker.”
“We may disagree on a whole host of things, but we have worked together to get major bills done in the past. I have a lot of faith in him,” Booker said. “I believe we’re in a historical moment. History has its eyes on us. And there’s an urgency in our country, and may we both rise in this Senate negotiation to get something substantive and meaningful done.”