The Republican senator Tim Scott has said talks on law enforcement reform collapsed because Democrats wanted to defund the police.
Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation in an interview to be broadcast in full on Sunday, Scott said: “We said simply this. ‘I’m not going to participate in reducing funding for the police after we saw a major city after major city defund the police.’
“Many provisions in this bill [Democrats] wanted me to agree to limited or reduced funding for the police.”
Talks began after widespread protests against police brutality and institutional racism, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by an officer in Minneapolis last year.
Some cities enacted measures to reallocate funding to police departments which many say have grown too aggressive and militarised, disproportionately affecting minority communities.
The slogan “defund the police”, popular among some progressives, was used by the right during the 2020 election to portray Democrats as a threat to law and order. Mainstream Democratic figures including Joe Biden have distanced themselves from the slogan.
Scott, from South Carolina, is the only Black Republican senator. Democratic negotiators were led by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Representative Karen Bass of California, prominent African Americans in Congress.
CBS reported that it had obtained a document outlining Booker’s “minimum requirements” for reform. They included bans on practices including chokeholds (used in the death of Eric Garner in New York in 2014) and no-knock warrants (used in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky last year).
CBS said the document also outlined reforms departments would need to make to remain eligible for certain types of grant.
“We have about a billion dollars in grant money that goes to police,” Scott said. “When you start saying, ‘In order to receive those dollars, you must do A, B and C. And if you don’t do a B and C, you literally lose eligibility for the two major pots of money … 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.”
Referring to Booker, interviewer Margaret Brennan said: “So obviously, that’s a big point of disagreement between the two of you.”
“Only if you can’t read,” Scott said.
“You’re saying Senator Booker can’t read?” Brennan asked.
Scott said: “I’m only saying that if you read the legislation, it’s pretty simple. This is not something that I’m making up, and we can debate our facts. We can actually say, in several different areas of the bill, it reduces funding.”
Booker did not immediately respond. He was due to give his own interviews on Sunday.
On Thursday, Bass appealed to the Biden administration, to “use the full extent of their constitutionally mandated power to bring about meaningful police reform”.