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Transcript: Senator Tim Scott on "Face the Nation," May 2, 2021

Scott: "Significant numbers" of Republicans willing to back police reform
Tim Scott says "significant numbers" of Republicans willing to support police reform 09:42

The following is a transcript of an interview with Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina that aired Sunday, May 2, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina gave the Republican response to President Biden's address to Congress, he joins us now from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Good morning, Senator.

SEN. TIM SCOTT: Morning, JOHN, I hope you're doing well.

JOHN DICKERSON: I am. Last time we were talking, we got cut a little tight there in conversations about your effort to pass some police reform through the Senate. So we're going to start there today. When we talked, it was in the summer, you were pessimistic. You have recently said you are optimistic about the course of negotiations. What gives you that optimism?

SEN. SCOTT: Well, John, let me just say this, one of the reasons why I asked to lead this police reform conversation on my side of the aisle is because I have- I personally understand the- the pain of being stopped 18 times driving while black. I also have seen the- the beauty of when officers go door-to-door with me on Christmas morning delivering presents to- to kids in the most underserved communities. So I think I bring an equilibrium to the conversation. One of the reasons why I'm hopeful is because in a way, this time my friends on the left aren't looking for the issue. They're looking for a solution. And the things that I offered last- last year are more popular this year. That gives me reasons to be hopeful. And frankly, JOHN, I was thinking about this. Think about the parts of the two bills that are in common, data collection. I think through negotiations and conversations, we are now closer on no-knock warrants and chokeholds. And there's something called Section 10.33  that has to do with getting government equipment from the military for local police. I think we're making progress there, too. So we have literally been able to bring these two bills very close together. And if we remember, the goal isn't for Republicans or Democrats to win, but for communities to feel safer and our officers to feel respected. If we can accomplish those two major goals, the rest will be history.

JOHN DICKERSON: A lot sunnier picture than when we talked during the summer. Let me ask you about the question of qualified immunity. Just to remind people this is a legal framework that on the one hand, some people say protects police who are acting in good faith. Critics say that it's a shield when police cross the line. That has been a major sticking point. You have offered a proposal that says allow civil suits to sue the department and not the individual police officer. Are you finding Democratic support for that?

SEN. SCOTT I am actually, which is another reason why I'm more optimistic this time, what we want to do is make sure that the bad apples are punished. And we've seen that through convictions from Michael Slager in 2015 when he shot Walter Scott in the back. And too recently just last several days on the George Floyd convictions. Those are promising signs. But the real question is how do we change the culture of policing? I think we do that by making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee. We do that with doctors. We do that with lawyers. We do that in almost all of our industries. And if we do that in law enforcement, the employer will change the culture. So as opposed to having one officer change or not change, we'll have all officers transforming because the departments are taking on more of that burden. And frankly, as I spoke with the family members on Thursday, they were very receptive to that proposal because what they're looking for is something that shows progress. I think that does it.

JOHN DICKERSON: When- when you talk about changing the culture, I wonder what your assessment is of in your own party. How many people think that there is a need for police reform at all? Tucker Carlson is very influential with Republicans. And he quoted you and many others who said after the Chauvin verdict, there's more work to be done. You're talking about changing that culture. And he seemed to think that was not a legitimate position. What's your feeling about that?

SEN. SCOTT: Well, one of the reasons why I started our conversation John with reality that as a United States Senator, I've been stopped several times in the last three years in the Capitoll and on the streets throughout the country. So I'm not having a conversation about some theory or philosophy. I'm saying that there is a way for us to restore more confidence from communities of color and say to our officers, we want character-driven officers responding to crises in neighborhoods. Those are two things that we can accomplish. I think my party, significant numbers in my party have already said to me, we will go where you go on this issue as long as I can explain my position. And we're going to do that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about your- your theory about race. You said America is not a racist country. And your response to the president. The president has subsequently said he agrees with you,--


JOHN DICKERSON:  but you've also said so there's some common ground there. You've also said to suggest there aren't racial challenges and patterns is for someone to be blind. 


JOHN DICKERSON: And you've also said that- that the system is breaking the back and breaking the spirit of millions of people in our country. And you're talking about Black Americans who are being affected by that system. So help people understand when you say it's not a racist country, but then you do talk about a system that targets Black Americans. You've talked about it today, help people square those two statements.

SEN. SCOTT: Sure. Well, first, let me say thank goodness that finally our president, our vice president and one of the leaders in the Democrat- Democrat caucus in the House, Jim Clyburn, have all come forward and said exactly what I've been saying for a long time. America is not a racist country. The question is, is there a lingering effect after a couple of centuries of racism and discrimination in this nation? The answer is absolutely. The question we should be debating and fighting over is how do we resolve those issues going forward. One side says I'm going to take from some to give to others. Fighting bigotry with bigotry is hypocrisy. It just doesn't work. The second- our side, what I've suggested is let's expand opportunity and make sure that we are fully equipped for the challenges of the future. One of the reasons why we have fought for and won the highest level of funding for historically black colleges, Republicans leading that fight is because I understand that if I could level the playing field in education, we will actually see human flourishing like we've never seen before.

JOHN DICKERSON: And senator- 

SEN. SCOTT: --we focus our attention on health care as we have on sickle cell anemia or on opportunity zones for bringing resources into poor communities. We'll see what we have seen, which is the unemployment rates hitting all time lows for African-Americans, Hispanics, 70 year low for women. Those things actually matter, JOHN.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah, but-  but when you say there's- one side is talking about taking from one side to the other. I mean, this is, you know, people pay taxes and there's an argument that that the taxes that are paid should go to communities that- that we've seen, especially under COVID-19 have been disproportionately affected and that that's laid bare a lot of the inequities. So you're- you're not saying that then making sure that there's money that goes to those Black communities is a bad thing?

SEN. SCOTT: Well, JOHN, let me say it differently. When you pass the Covid package with two trillion dollars of spending and in your package, you hide in there if you are a Black farmer, we will give you resources. But if you are a white farmer, you are excluded from those same resources that's taking from one to give to the other. That's one of the reasons why in the 1990s, the USDA had to pay out the Pigford settlements to Black farmers for taking from them to give to the white farmers.


SEN. SCOTT:  So we're going to reverse that and call that a way of creating fairness in our country? That doesn't really work. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Of course, they would argue that- that- that they're trying to deal with that system and the inequities you talk about. But let me ask you about taxes here, because that's a part of this argument too.


JOHN DICKERSON: The president says 55 of the largest corporations pay no corporate taxes. Polls consistently show 70% of the country thinks that- that the system is tilted towards the powerful. Why is it not- why isn't it just making corporations pay their fair share to inch up the corporate tax rate, as the president has suggested?

SEN. SCOTT: Well, the real reason, JOHN, is a simple reason, and this is what I think is kind of stunning that we're missing in the conversation and you asked that of the White House chief of staff recently. Or earlier. We have competition. America has global competitors whose tax rates are lower than we are right now at 21%. Therefore, by taking it to 28%, you actually rebalance the world against American workers. It's one of the reasons why the Biden plan makes wages, suppresses wages long term and slows the growth of our economy because our competition is significantly lower than ours. You cannot compete in a global competition with higher taxes versus lower taxes and expect to win more of the contracts. That's kind of simple.

JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get your- you on the record about one final thing, if I may, Senator. 

SEN. SCOTT: Yes, sir.

JOHN DICKERSON: You talked about having an honest conversation about common sense and common ground. Seventy percent of your- your party think that Joe Biden is illegitimate because the election was stolen. How do you have common ground with that belief?

SEN. SCOTT: Well, by moving on. The election is over. Joe- Joe Biden is a president of the United.  And now, what we have to wrestle with--

JOHN DICKERSON: The legitimate president?

SEN. SCOTT: Of course he is! Well, now, what we have to wrestle with is can we spend six to six and a half trillion dollars and raise taxes by four to four and a half trillion dollars and create a better America? 

JOHN DICKERSON: Alright, Senator.

SEN. SCOTT: My answer is no, because the American government--

JOHN DICKERSON: We're going to have to--

SEN. SCOTT: --can't be responsible for everything.

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator, thank you so much. We got to go there and we'll be right back with more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.

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