Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is pledging Democrats this week will begin crafting “legislative plans of action” to address unjustified police killings and “systemic racism and injustice” that plague America.
Some Republicans do not favor a federal response, however, unless it involves stopping the rioting that has torn through cities across the United States.
“The president should do everything to keep law and order,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, of Alabama, said as he headed for a vote Monday evening. “Violence has no place in America.”
President Trump Monday night pledged to respond at the federal level to George Floyd’s death, which was ruled a homicide on Monday. A white police officer has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served,” Trump said. “He will not have died in vain.”
Democrats are planning a legislative response that will immediately address the killing of Floyd and other black men and women at the hands of police, which has sparked the rioting.
“Senate Democrats will be confronting and addressing all of these issues this week, and many of my colleagues will prepare legislative plans of action,” Schumer said Monday. “We will listen to experts on these issues and our constituents who face these challenges on a daily basis. Be sure of this: We will propose and push for bold action.”
Schumer suggested Democrats will work on a centralized law enforcement bill aimed at ending rogue behavior at police stations that lead to police brutality, particularly when it comes to the treatment of black people.
“We must reform our laws and our police practices so that events like George Floyd’s killing are far less likely in the first place,” Schumer said. “There are many examples of departments that have made strides at improving community relations, transparency, and accountability while reducing unwarranted violence and racial bias. We need to build on those best practices and get all our police agencies to adopt them.”
Some Republicans rejected a centralized, federal response.
“I’m definitely for a police reform bill, just not at the federal level,” Sen. Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, said. “This is clearly the responsibility of governors and mayors.”
Schumer is pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to take up a bill in the next month.
“At this delicate time, the Senate should lead on these issues rather than aggravate the problem,” Schumer said Monday. “Leader McConnell should commit to put a law enforcement reform bill on the floor of the Senate before July 4.”
Some Senate Democrats are eager to advance legislation. Sen. Gary Peters, of Michigan, told the Washington Examiner he wants the Senate to take up a bill to create a criminal justice commission “to conduct a full, top-to-bottom review.”
The measure has bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican.
But other Republicans believe there isn’t really a role for the Senate in responding to the police killings or the rioting.
“The best thing we can do is individual messaging and to be able to listen to people and continue to speak about the situation,” Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, said. “There is not a piece of legislation you can pass and implement fast enough to respond to what is happening right now. There are only things we can do individually.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, said he’d at least consider a law enforcement reform bill as did Sen. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican.
“The killing of George Floyd is despicable,” McSally said. “We need full justice for his death, and as far as what we can do, I’m open to ideas. I have meetings with leaders in Arizona to see what the appropriate federal response should be.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, said finding the right response is complicated by the violence that has erupted at the protests, which undermines the social justice message.
“I think we need to acknowledge that there is a reason to protest brutality and racism, but we also need to stress there are two elements mixed in that discredit this movement, which is the antifa and the criminals. If we can speak against the two, and for the one, that is hopefully where we begin to move forward as a society.”
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