Scott's challenge: Uniting Senate GOP behind police overhaul

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Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing to examine implementation of Title I of the CARES Act, Wednesday, June 10, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – The GOP is looking for an answer on how to respond to national outrage over the police killing of George Floyd. And they are looking to Sen. Tim Scott to provide it.

The question is whether Scott, the lone black GOP senator, will be able to pull Republicans behind legislation in the roiling aftermath of Floyd’s death. That challenge is steep enough in a mostly white party led by self-proclaimed “law and order” President Donald Trump. But Scott also is batting back at members of the black community accusing him of allowing Republicans to use him in an election year to right racial wrongs.

Scott, who has kept lines of communication open with Trump even after the president called white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., “good people,” is asking critics: Who better?

“Not surprising the last 24 hours have seen a lot of “token” “boy” or “you’re being used” in my mentions,” Scott tweeted Wednesday. “Let me get this straight ... you DON’T want the person who has faced racial profiling by police, been pulled over dozens of times, or been speaking out for YEARS drafting this?”

Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked painful upheaval and protests against systemic racism in the United States. But it also posed a stark test for the white Republicans who control the Senate. As Floyd's funeral was held in Houston on Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a new tone and acknowledged that almost all Senate Republicans, unlike Democrats, are white.

“None of us have had the experience of being an African American in this country and dealing with this discrimination,” McConnell, who is up for reelection alongside Trump, told reporters. “I think the best way for the Senate Republicans to go forward on this is to listen to one of our own, who’s had these experiences.”

McConnell spoke after Scott finished briefing Senate Republicans on the legislation, which in part would establish a national database for police misconduct. Floyd’s brother, Philonise, challenged Congress Wednesday to “stop the pain” with police reforms. Scott said he was talking with the White House, but not Trump so far, to agree on a package of legislation.

The 54-year-old former House member describes himself as “the son of a son of a son of a slave,” a descendant of a West African family who arrived in the U.S. aboard a slave ship, probably in Charleston, S.C., two centuries ago.