David M. Rubin
THE AFFABLE ASSASSIN STRIKES AGAIN
Republican legislative assassins come in two varieties.
One is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been blunt in his desire to cripple Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden. With McConnell we know where we stand. He is the reliable "Mr. No" to pretty much everything a Democratic President, House or Senate proposes.
The second type of assassin is South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the self-described voice of compromise, bi-partisanship, and sweet reason. But there is a problem with that picture. Scott's record delivering on legislative initiatives is the same as McConnell's. Nothing. He offers only obstructionism, gridlock, and a shiv in the back---but with a smile.
The latest example is the death of Scott's signature legislative initiative this term: police reform. For months he has been the Republican point person leading slow-motion "negotiations" to produce changes to police procedures as a response to the murder of George Floyd. Scott has received a lot of positive media attention for his "bi-partisan" efforts in this regard, media attention he courts.
Last week Scott succeeded in getting from his Democratic negotiating partners pretty much everything he claimed he wanted in a bill. He succeeded because Democrats remain desperate to produce "bi-partisan" legislation and are willing to give and give to attain it.
According to reporters Dareh Gregorian and Leigh Ann Caldwell of NBCnews.com, Scott's negotiating partners (Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Representative Karen Bass) stripped out of the legislation any changes to the controversial policy of "qualified immunity." This policy makes it very hard to hold rogue police officers accountable for their actions. They also stripped out of their bill a ban on no-knock search warrants and the criminalization of the use of excessive force. Scott objected to these provisions, too.
These are all significant legislative goals for Democrats to abandon. Still, Democrats compromised with Scott and took them all out of the final bill they offered to him.
Was Scott satisfied? No. Fearing he would actually have to produce a bill, he moved the goalposts. Now he objected to including provisions that former President Trump himself had proposed in an executive order. Scott didn't want any federal involvement in holding police departments responsible for the behavior of their officers. Scott wanted this left to state and local authorities.
This is rich coming from a South Carolina Senator. Beginning with Reconstruction and continuing until the 1960s and the Voting Rights Act, it is that very federal authority to which Scott objects that has helped Black citizens of the state slowly win the right to vote. Surely Scott must be aware of the state's shameful record of white supremacy, voter intimidation, poll taxes, and a lot more.
To defend his behavior Scott followed McConnell's playbook and blamed the Democrats. He issued a cynical, untruthful statement that "Democrats said no because they could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement." Surely Scott knows that in August, Senate Democrats voted unanimously for a Republican proposal to take away federal funds from any municipality that defunds its police department. President Biden has said on many occasions that defunding the police is not Democratic Party policy and never has been.
But the baseless charge of defunding the police is catnip to Scott. He can't let it go, so he used it to attack Booker, Bass and all Democrats to justify his own irresponsible behavior.
Bass got it right when she said that Democrats had "accepted significant compromises, knowing that they would be a tough sell to our community, but still believing that we would be moving the needle forward on this issue. But every time, more was demanded [by Scott] to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing."
This is precisely what Scott wanted. He never had an interest in moving the needle in any significant way on police reform. That was clear when he announced months ago that changes to "qualified immunity" for police were off the table. Democrats took him at his word and dropped it, and much else, from the bill. But nothing would ever have been enough for Scott. He is just another Republican Rejectionist, like McConnell.
Democrats must add this embarrassing legislative failure by Scott to the long list of reasons to vote him out of the Senate in November of 2022. Our affable legislative assassin will never help the country solve its many problems.