Tim Scott: "Neutral" progress on race relations under Obama

Republican Tim Scott, the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that more could have been done to improve race relations during President Obama's time in office.

"We have probably had a neutral position on progressing from a racial perspective in America over the last few years. We have not made as much progress as we would like to have seen," Scott said. "If you look at, specifically, the challenges made by black America, the last six years have been challenging. Unemployment rate is near 12 percent overall. The poverty rate is near 28 percent. I will tell you that the last six years have not been good for most folks, middle America and down."

Scott spoke to "Face the Nation" after visiting Selma, Alabama, over the weekend for the 50th anniversary of the march that would come to be known as "Bloody Sunday."

He said he believes that education is the key to a better life in America.

"My opportunity agenda focuses on the foundation of the American Dream and it starts with education. You can have a fantastic life here in America, in the South, and in the North and the West and the East if you focus your attention on outcomes driven by education," he said.

Scott also weighed in on the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 when the justices ruled that the formula for determining which states must seek approval to change their voting laws was outdated.

He agreed with the court that it's time to update the formula.

"I will tell you that every single American should demand making sure that every other American has the right to vote. I think we're all on the same page on that. The question is, how do we get there? To specifically punish six Southern states for atrocities that happened forty or fifty years ago without updating that formula seems discriminatory in and of itself," Scott said. "What I would support is take a second view at the Voting Rights Act. And see how we can apply it universally to all Americans, every place, and let's judge people and states based on their performance today and not forty or fifty years ago."

He pointed to his own statewide election in South Carolina, as well as that of Gov. Nikki Haley, an Indian American woman.

"There's no doubt about the fact that there has been amazing progress throughout the South and we should make sure that the formulas that are used do not punish the history of the state but should represent the current state of affairs," Scott said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.