McConnell says it’s difficult to be a Black conservative: ‘It takes a great deal of courage to deal with the peer pressure’

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Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, right, the sole Black Republican in the upper chamber, is accompanied by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, left, at a news conference on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2020.

  • In a recent interview, Mitch McConnell said that it is “very hard” to be a Black conservative.
  • He added that Black conservatives face “peer pressure” when expressing their political beliefs.
  • McConnell praised his colleague, Tim Scott, who is thought of as a potential 2024 GOP candidate.
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GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said during an interview that aired on Sunday that it is “very hard” to be a Black conservative Republican.

During a conversation on Kentucky Educational Television, McConnell mentioned that “at least three or four members” of the Senate GOP caucus would likely run for president in 2024. The conversation quickly turned to Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the upper chamber, who is thought of as a possible contender.

McConnell praised Scott, describing him as a “star.”

“He’s a remarkable individual,” McConnell said. “It’s very, very hard to be a conservative Republican African American. We have a similar all-star in Kentucky in Attorney General Daniel Cameron. It takes a great deal of courage to deal with the peer pressure that is put on African American conservatives. I admire them both greatly.”

Scott, who has taken a lead role in crafting a bipartisan police reform bill in the Senate, has seen his stock rise in Republican circles as a skilled communicator in party that has struggled to attract minorities in its ranks in large numbers.

Read more: The House’s history-making top security official talked with Insider about his plan to reopen the Capitol and ensure it will ‘never, ever be breached again’ after the January 6 attack

Last month, Scott gave the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, recounting his adolescence growing up the South while also delivering a healthy blast of conservative criticism for Biden’s legislative agenda.

He also detailed his personal experience of being a Black man in America and chastised liberals for racial insults he said he has endured over the years for choosing to be a Black conservative.

“I have experienced the pain of discrimination,” he said in the response. “I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called Uncle Tom and the n-word by progressives, by liberals.”

Cameron, a McConnell political protégé who was first elected to office in 2017, becoming the first Black attorney general in Kentucky history, is widely considered to be a top candidate to succeed the longtime senator.

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In GOP response to Biden’s address, Sen. Tim Scott said US’ future won’t come from ‘Washington schemes or socialist dreams’

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In this June 17, 2020, photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • President Joe Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday.
  • Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, delivered the GOP rebuttal.
  • “Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams,” Scott said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, delivered the GOP’s response to President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening.

The South Carolina senator delivered his remarks following Biden’s speech, during which the president laid out a recovery plan for the US and celebrated the progress that had been made in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his response, Scott, a rising star who has served in the Senate since 2013, said Biden’s speech was “full of good words” but that he hasn’t delivered on his promise to unite Americans.

“Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes,” Scott said, adding that the president’s actions are pulling us further apart.

He praised Republicans and President Donald Trump for progress made during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it should be a “joyful springtime for our nation” because “this administration inherited a tide that had already turned.”

Read more: These 10 power players are shaping the debate over police reform in DC following the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin

“Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump Administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding,” he said.

He also criticized school closures and promoted school choice.

“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future. Our public schools should have reopened months ago,” he said. “Other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe.”

Scott also criticized Democrats for not working with Republicans on Biden’s coronavirus stimulus and infrastructure plan. He emphasized the importance of finding common ground, especially in regard to race.

“I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around a store while I’m shopping,” he said. “I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called Uncle Tom and the n-word by progressives, by liberals.”

Scott noted his work in Congress on police reform but accused Democrats of not being interested in working for a solution. He also said it was “backward to fight discrimination with more discrimination.”

“Today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again, and if they look a certain way they’re an oppressor,” he said. “America is not a racist country.”

On the economy, Scott said Republicans had created the “most inclusive economy in my lifetime,” citing low employment rates among Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, as well as women.

“Our best future won’t come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams,” he said.

“It will come from you – the American people,” he said, praising the US as “the country where my grandfather in his 94 years saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”

On Tuesday, Scott spoke with reporters about how he was preparing for his speech.

“You figure out who your audience is, you figure out what you want to say and you try and find a way to say it well,” Scott said, The Associated Press reported. “And you lean into who you are.”

Ahead of the speech, Scott sent out a fundraising appeal on behalf of the Republican National Convention, CNN’s DJ Judd reported. The email took on a pointedly harsher tone.

“Joe Biden does not believe in the promise of America, and nothing he says tonight can change that,” Scott said in the email said. “Make no mistake; if Patriotic Americans, like yourself, sit on the sidelines, Joe Biden will be able to replace the American Dream with a socialist nightmare.”

Scott’s address came amid increased scrutiny of the police in the US. During Biden’s speech, the president urged Congress to pass a police reform bill. Scott is the lead Republican engaging in talks over reform in the Senate.

He sponsored the Senate’s 2020 policing bill which focused on improving data collection on police misconduct and expanding de-escalation training for police. The bill did not receive the 60 votes needed, falling short by five.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Senators move to make State Department internships paid

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Sen. Cory Booker just won his second term in November.

  • Sens. Cory Booker and Tim Scott just introduced a bill to make State Department internships paid.
  • The bill would also help cover transportation and housing costs for State Department interns.
  • It’s aimed at increasing diversity in the intern ranks and part of a larger paid internship movement.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Unpaid internships have come under renewed scrutiny in recent days, as discourse has swirled online over their potential for exploitation and inequity. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even weighed in with a tweet on Monday, writing: “Pay your interns! It’ll improve your operation and make it more diverse and just.”

Now, Sens. Cory Booker and Tim Scott are taking it one step further, introducing a bipartisan bill to make all State Department internships fully paid. Booker has already been an advocate for paid internships.

In a press release, the duo cites declines in the number of women and Black workers at the State Department.

The bill would make all State Department internships pay the jurisdiction’s minimum wage. It would also provide housing for students who would live outside the US for their internships, as well as for students who work more than 50 miles away from their permanent addresses. In addition, travel for getting to and from those locations would be covered and targeted outreach to minority-serving institutions would be mandated.

“For far too long, the State Department has failed to recruit low-income and students of color within their internship program largely due to it being unpaid,” Booker said in a press release. “Having a diplomatic corps that represents the diverse makeup of the United States will increase the institutional knowledge and capacity of the State Department and improve our image abroad.”

It’s similar to bipartisan legislation recently reintroduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro.  

“This commonsense legislation will make internships at the State Department fairer, more rewarding, and more open to all, and is a crucial part of my focus on ensuring American diplomats reflect the diversity of the American people,” Castro said in a press release.  

There’s a larger movement to make internships paid

Carlos Mark Vera is the executive director of Pay Our Interns, a group that advocates for paid internships and supports Castro’s legislation. Since its founding in 2016, Pay Our Interns has been changing the conversation around getting interns paid. It was previously successful in getting Congress to allocate $31 million to intern compensation – and now it’s chipping away at the State Department with this bill.

“This is, in my opinion, the golden standard,” Vera told Insider. He said a highlight is how it would make pay the minimum wage rather than a stipend, which sometimes are not enough to live on. 

The bill would transition all unpaid internships to paid ones in three years, and has built-in reporting guidelines, for instance on whether interns are going to public or private schools, what their home state is, and other transparency measures. 

The debate over unpaid internships and their potential for exploitation is not a new one. Research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that students of color are underrepresented in paid internships. 

“This is a big deal for us because it could serve as a model for all other federal agencies, which is our goal,” Vera said.

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