House Democrats appear set to pass their own police reform bill — just one day after Senate Democrats managed to block a GOP-led proposal in the Senate.
The bill, titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, is scheduled to come to a vote in the lower chamber of Congress on Thursday and calls for far more sweeping reforms to law enforcement than the Republican package.
The Democratic proposal would ban chokeholds and no-knock drug warrants for federal drug cases, as well as end qualified immunity, the doctrine that shields law enforcement officers from personal liability.
The GOP measure, meanwhile, proposed incentivizing police departments to ban chokeholds, but not mandating that the practice be abolished. The bill also does not remove qualified immunity, a red line for Republicans.
Senate Republicans needed to get 60 votes in order to advance Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) bill to debate, which they failed to reach.
Originally, Senate GOP leadership planned to hold a vote after the July 4 recess on Scott’s bill, but bumped it up to be able to vote before leaving as protests sweep the nation in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer.
As a result, Scott’s legislation was brought directly to the floor instead of going through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it could have been debated and Democrats would have had the chance to offer amendments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) denounced the Senate bill this week in no uncertain terms.
“We’re saying no chokeholds. They’re not saying no chokeholds. I mean, there’s a big difference there. What’s the compromise? Some chokeholds? I don’t see what the compromise is,” Pelosi told CBS News Radio Tuesday.
“For something to happen, they’re going to have to face the reality of police brutality, the reality of the need for justice in policing, and the recognition that there are many, many good people in law enforcement, but not all and that we have to address those concerns.”
“So far they’re trying to get away with murder, actually. The murder of George Floyd,” the top House Democrat said.
Once Democrats get their bill through the House, the legislation will be in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he declined to say whether the upper chamber of Congress would take up the Democratic package.
“Well, we will let you know. It can be done under a motion to reconsider at any point,” he said just prior to the GOP bill being blocked.
McConnell himself voted against the measure, a tactic that, for procedural reasons, gives him the ability to bring the legislation back for another vote.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that negotiations to break the stalemate and vote again were not going on “at the moment.”
As for the House bill, McConnell has remarked that the proposal would be “going nowhere” in the Senate.
Last week, Pelosi said that she was hoping to take the Democrats’ bill to conference, in which members are designated from each party to develop a compromise piece of legislation.
Thune acknowledged that Wednesday’s vote likely wouldn’t be “the last,” on police reform, but maintained that the GOP caucus stood by Scott’s legislation.
“Our members are united that Tim Scott put together a really solid bill. It deserves a chance to at least be debated,” he said.
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