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Politics & Policy

Sen. Dick Durbin Apologizes to Sen. Tim Scott for ‘Token’ Comment on Police Reform Bill

Sen. Dick Durbin, speaking during a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/Reuters)

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin apologized to Senator Tim Scott, the Senate’s only black Republican, after he dismissed Scott’s police reform bill as “a token, half-hearted approach.”

“The minute Sen. Durbin heard that he had offended Sen. Scott, he sought him out on the floor and apologized,” Durbin’s communications director, Emily Hampsten, said in a statement. “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.”

“Addressing systemic racism and changing policing in America requires and deserves more than one Judiciary hearing, one floor vote, one conversation,” she added.

In a floor speech on Wednesday, Durbin, the Senate minority whip, criticized the GOP police reform bill, introduced by Scott in the wake of demands for action on police brutality and racism after the police custody death of George Floyd.

“Let’s not do something that is a token, half-hearted approach. Let’s focus instead on making a change that will make a difference in the future of America,” the Illinois senator said.

Scott, a South Carolina Republican, responded to Durbin’s remarks in a tweet later in the day.

“Y’all still wearing those kente cloths over there @SenatorDurbin?” Scott tweeted, referencing about two dozen Senate Democrats who earlier this month donned African kente cloths and knelt in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall to express solidarity with black Americans. Durbin did not participate in that display.

Scott also said the comments from Durbin, who in the same floor speech called Scott a friend and said he respects him, “hurts my soul.”

“To have the senator from Illinois refer to this process, this bill, this opportunity to restore hope and confidence and trust 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 in an emotional floor speech in which he also reminded members that Wednesday was the five-year anniversary of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church by a white male who expressed racist views against African-Americans.

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