Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African American Republican senator, told CNN on Wednesday that he agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that reparations are not a “realistic path forward” because it’s just too complicated to figure out who to compensate.
“There is no question that slavery is a scourge on the history of America,” Scott said. “The question is, are reparations a realistic path forward? The answer is no. The fact is if you just try to unscramble that egg to figure out who are we compensating, who’s actually paying for it and who was here in 1865?”
He added, “I think you start seeing a formula that (it) is impossible to unscramble that egg. So I think it’s a nonstarter.”
Asked about McConnell’s assertion that the country was making progress on race relations, as illustrated by the election of Barack Obama as the first African American president, Scott said, “That’s not as relevant to me on the issue of reparations.”
“Reparations has nothing to do with whether you elect a black president or not. That’s a whole different conversation,” he said. “Reparations are about what happened in the past, not what’s happening in the present. That’s my theory.”
Scott declined to directly address McConnell’s comments – which have drawn criticism from Democratic politicians and activists – because he had not seen them in full and therefore wanted to discuss only the issues involved.
On Tuesday, in response to a reporter’s question about reparations, McConnell said, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.”
The Kentucky Republican added at the time, “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African American president.”
McConnell also argued that it would be difficult to figure out who to pay because “waves of immigrants” come to the country who have faced “dramatic discrimination.”
In 2016, Scott delivered a powerful and emotional series of Senate floor speeches about the problems African Americans encounter with police in which he talked about the multiple times he has been pulled over – even as a US senator – because he believes he was racially profiled.
Scott was asked if it’s healthy for the country to have a debate now over reparations, something that was the subject of a hearing in the House on Wednesday and has been debated extensively by Democratic candidates running for president.
“It’s a debate we’re going to have right now. They are having a hearing or whatever in the House. So the truth of the matter is we are going to have this conversation,” he said. “I think it’s helpful for us to get on the other side of this, but the way you get there is you go through it sometimes.”
Scott, when asked about former Vice President Joe Biden’s Tuesday evening comments about working with segregationist senators in the interest of civility and accomplishing the nation’s business, suggested Biden may “like to have a second shot at those comments.”
“I think that it harkens back to days when segregationists were in charge of things; bringing back civility means the absence of diversity,” Scott said. “From his comments, I think that’s probably unrealistic. I’m sure he would like to have a second shot at those comments.”