Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., apologized to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., after calling the police reform bill he spearheaded as the lone black GOP senator a “token” approach, Durbin's office said.
“The minute Sen. Durbin heard that he had offended Sen. Scott, he sought him out on the floor and apologized. What Sen. Durbin took issue with in his floor speech was not Sen. Scott’s bill, but that the Senate Majority Leader would short circuit this critical debate and fail to make the changes needed to prevent the killing of Black Americans by police officers,” Durbin’s communications director, Emily Hampsten, said in a statement to Fox News.
“Addressing systemic racism and changing policing in America requires and deserves more than one Judiciary hearing, one floor vote, one conversation,” she added.
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Durbin referenced Scott's bill and said he respects the senator but made clear he supports the Democrats’ legislation, saluting California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker for their work on it.
“We cannot waste this historic moment,” Durbin said of a police reform bill. “Let’s not do something that is a token, half-hearted approach.”
In remarks on the Senate floor, Scott said the Illinois Democrat’s words "hurts us all." He said it especially "hurts" to hear language like that on the fifth anniversary of the Charleston church shooting.
Earlier, Scott responded on Twitter to Durbin's comments by referring to how congressional Democrats last week wore African kente cloths while they unveiled their own version of police reform. Critics accused them of cultural appropriation.
“Y’all still wearing those kente cloths over there @SenatorDurbin?” Scott wrote on Twitter.
Senate Republicans on Wednesday unveiled their Justice Act police reform legislation, after Democrats in the House unveiled their own version of police reform last week.
The Republicans’ bill seeks to hold officers accountable with an enhanced use-of-force database, restrict chokeholds, and assist local police departments with minority hiring to make them look more like the communities they serve.
Scott said the bill aimed to restore confidence in institutions of authority from communities of color and the overwhelming number of officers in America are good people. But he acknowledged the real fears people of color have about encountering the police.
"We hear you. We're listening to your concerns," said Scott, who recalled his own "driving while black" experiences of being stopped seven times in one year. "The George Floyd incident certainly accelerated this conversation."
McConnell said he'll bring the legislation to a vote on the Senate floor by next week. "We're serious about making a law here," he said at the Capitol press conference.
Meanwhile, the Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act would lower the bar for police officers to face criminal prosecution by allowing charges not just in cases where alleged misconduct was intentional, but also in cases of reckless misconduct. It would also ban chokeholds, create a national database of cops who committed misconduct, boost police training and reform qualified immunity that can protect cops from lawsuits from victims of police brutality.
Democrats decried the Senate bill as not going far enough. "The Senate proposal of studies and reporting without transparency and accountability is inadequate," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the GOP legislation. "The Senate’s so-called Justice Act is not action."
Fox News' Sally Persons contributed to this report.