Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said on Sunday it was ‘unfortunate’ that Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) blamed congressional police reform negotiations falling through on Democrats wanting to ‘defund the police.’
Earlier the same day Scott told CBS’s Face the Nation that Booker wanted him to agree to a ‘lose-lose proposition’ that included limited or reduced funding for police departments.
Bipartisan talks on overhauling policing practices ended without an agreement on Wednesday, marking the collapse of an effort that began in April after white police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, Booker said the bill would have done the opposite of what his Republican colleague claims.
‘This is a bill that would have had millions of dollars for police departments,’ he told host Jake Tapper. ‘Additional dollars, because we want to help officers with mental health issues. We want to collect more data, so we should give more resources.’
‘We wanted to have more transparency, higher professional standards, and real accountability. If you break the law, you shouldn’t be shielded from that. Those were the lines all along.’
Senator Cory Booker said it was ‘unfortunate’ that Republicans accused him of wanting to defund the police
Floyd’s death, along with the publicized deaths of numerous African Americans in or after encounters with police, sparked protests across the US.
Police reform negotiations began under the Trump administration and were led by Booker and Scott in a show of bipartisanship amid an otherwise divisive political environment.
But repeated calls to ‘defund the police,’ especially in Democrat-controlled cities and among progressive lawmakers, has driven a wedge in the already sensitive talks.
Scott told CBS that what could have been a reckoning over policing tactics failed because Democrats ‘walked away.’
‘I’m not sure why they missed the moment. I have been at this table twice already. They’ve walked away twice. They did this a year ago and they’re doing it again now,’ Scott said.
Democrats blocked a Republican Senate bill last year that they said was too weak, while a tougher House-approved bill this year was derailed in the Senate by the GOP.
Scott claimed they agreed on a range of issues including military equipment, mental health and call responders, but claimed they fell short on police funding, singling out Booker for criticism specifically.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott said Democrats tried to force him into a ‘lose-lose proposition’
‘Many provisions in this bill that he wanted me to agree to limited or reduced funding for the police. That’s a lose-lose proposition. When you reduce funding for police, you actually lose lives in the communities. Our approach was a win-win approach. We want the best wearing the badge and we want the vulnerable protected,’ Scott said.
The South Carolina Republican said there were ‘eight or nine issues’ over which he disagreed with Democrats, most of which included withholding federal grants and other funding as a penalty for not complying with regulations.
‘When you tell local law enforcement agencies that you are ineligible for money, that’s defunding the police, there’s no way to spin that,’ Scott said.
Booker directly disputed Scott and acknowledged that tying federal funds to regulation compliance is a common provision.
He added that part of the reform included codifying an executive order from former President Donald Trump into law.
In June 2020 Trump signed an order that created new guidelines for police use of force and de-escalation tactics, and established a national database to track police misconduct. Some of the reforms in Trump’s order were tied to Justice Department grants.
Calls for police reform at the federal level were sparked after nationwide protests over police violence that began in summer 2020 over the deaths of numerous black Americans in police custody
Scott had told CBS that he disagreed with the noncompliance provision of Trump’s measure.
Booker said as much on CNN, ‘We couldn’t even get agreement to memorialize what is already the law of the land via executive order.’
Scott said Democrats were trying to ‘nationalize local policing.’
‘What the Democrats asked for was a simple thing. They asked for more reporting on serious bodily injury to death. I said, that’s a great idea. When they wanted to nationalize local policing, I said, that’s a bad idea,’ Scott said.
He suggested that a federal database for ‘every single time you have any interaction’ with an officer could exist, but should be strictly voluntary.
At one point the South Carolina lawmaker pointedly accused Democrats of ‘playing politics.’
But Booker refused to criticize his GOP colleague.
Booker declined to criticize Scott directly but insisted he would keep fighting for reform
The two have said they are friends and have cited similar experiences of being challenged by officers.
He said both he and Scott are ‘good people’ who just ‘couldn’t get it done,’ but vowed to keep going.
‘This is one of those times where it’s not time to cast blame. We need to take responsibility for people,’ the New Jersey Democrat said.
‘I take responsibility for this struggle. I’m going to continue to work. Not going to cast stones at Republicans or Tim Scott. That’s not constructive.’
In a written statement Wednesday, President Joe Biden called Floyd’s killing ‘a stain on the soul of America,’ adding, ‘We will be remembered for how we responded to the call.’
He said Senate Republicans had ‘rejected enacting modest reforms’ that Trump had backed and some law enforcement organizations were open to.
He cited new Justice Department policies on chokeholds and other practices, and said his administration would seek ways, including with executive orders he could issue, ‘to live up to the American ideal of equal justice under law.’