Asked Thursday by a Washington correspondent for the Nexstar Media Group — the parent company of Des Moines station WHO-TV — if he was “at all hopeful” about a bipartisan compromise on federal police reform legislation, Chuck Grassley griped that Democrats cared only about booting his fellow Republicans from office.
“I’m very pessimistic that compromise will happen, because [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer has taken the position that Republicans can never get credit for a bill dealing with race issues or get credit with a bill dealing with police reform,” replied the octogenarian senator who endorsed white supremacist sympathizer Steve King as recently as November 2018, approved of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and once opposed making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday. However, he did recently support bipartisan criminal justice legislation called the First Step Act, and he spoke to the reporter while standing in front of a photo of President Trump signing the bill into law.
“This is very much partisan,” Grassley grumbled on. “They want to use this for political purposes to elect a Democrat president and a Democrat majority in the United States Senate. They don’t care anything about the Black community, and Tim Scott will explain that in his speech better than I can. He has explained that to the American people.”
Scott — the first Black Republican senator since 1979 — recently authored a police reform bill in the wake of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Senate Democrats blocked the bill’s passage, frustrated that their GOP colleagues had cut them out of the drafting process and arguing the bill’s proposed reforms didn’t nearly go far enough. Prominent civil rights groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as well as Floyd’s own family, also opposed the bill. They said it failed to address protesters’ demands for reforms including bans on police chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
Reacting emotionally in an address to a group of senators, Scott accused Democrats of opposing his legislation in order to prevent Republicans from being seen “as a party that reaches out to all communities in this nation.” After watching Scott speak, Grassley complained that Democrats “resent very much Senator Scott being a Black American taking this lead” as a Republican.
Meanwhile, fellow Iowa Republican and Senator Joni Ernst went on Fox News Tuesday, where she dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as people who were “not actually looking for solutions” but “just trying to be provocative.” She encouraged “some real discussion” rather than “vandalizing statues” and calling to defund the police.
On the Senate floor the next day, she praised the bipartisan effort in the Iowa Statehouse — which directly resulted from local Black Lives Matter demonstrations — that led to the passage of a policing bill with minor reforms, contrasting it with Democrats’ supposed partisanship in Congress. She specifically credited two lawmakers for their work on the bill, including Democratic state Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a major participant in Black Lives Matter protests in Des Moines, whose first name she mispronounced.
Ernst, who is trailing in recent polls against her 2020 Democratic rival, Theresa Greenfield, also introduced a bill with the seemingly self-contradictory title “Ending Taxpayer Funding of Anarchy Act.” The legislation was a response to protesters’ ongoing occupation of a part of Seattle they dubbed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone — a popular target of conservatives seeking to delegitimize the Black Lives Matter movement. The proposed law would deny federal funding to local jurisdictions that fail to forcefully crack down on such occupations.