Senate Democrats are set to sink Republicans’ police reform plan, vowing to block the bill on a key procedural vote Wednesday.
The partisan clash comes a week after Republicans unveiled the measure, led by Sen Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only African American GOP senator. Senate Democrats, who have their own proposal to curb police misconduct, argue the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The likely outcome is a deadlocked Senate once again, with both parties accusing the other of failing to negotiate in good faith, even as the country engages in a reckoning over police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police.
Senate Republicans argue that Wednesday’s vote is a way to begin the police reform debate and that the process will allow for consideration of amendments. Democrats say there’s no point in voting to advance a bill they see as fatally flawed and that won’t have the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.
Instead, Democrats are calling on Republicans to come back to the negotiating table to come up with a bipartisan solution that the Senate can then vote on. The Senate minority is particularly frustrated that GOP leaders put the bill on the floor before holding any talks to craft the plan or consider it in committee.
In a letter to McConnell Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said that the GOP police reform proposal was “not salvageable” and wouldn’t work even as a baseline for negotiations. Democrats have also highlighted opposition to the GOP proposal from civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“The question simply is this, who do you trust on police reform in America, the NAACP or Mitch McConnell?,” Booker asked Tuesday at a news conference. “The reality is the legitimacy of this process that we’ve been pushing all the time, asking for real reform, has been betrayed by what Mitch McConnell is doing through this procedure that he has set up to fail this moment.”
The GOP bill requires additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of “no knock warrants,” provides incentives for chokehold bans and makes lynching a federal crime.
The Democratic proposal would ban chokeholds and no knock warrants in federal drug cases. It would also limit qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier to sue police — something Democrats argue is key to holding police officers accountable for misconduct, but which most Republicans won’t consider. The House is set to pass a sweeping Democratic police reform proposal Thursday.
Senate Republicans are accusing Democrats of wanting to campaign on the issue and say that if they want to improve the bill, they can do so through the amendment process. In his floor remarks Tuesday, Scott argued that the two proposals are not as far apart as Democrats are suggesting. For example, he said, both sides want to pass anti-lynching legislation and provide de-escalation training.
“Why can’t both sides agree on a motion to proceed?” Scott asked. “If there’s that much commonality in the underlying legislation, if we’re all watching the same pictures that we have all found disgusting and unbelievable, why can’t we agree to tackle the issue in a substantive way here on the floor of the world’s greatest deliberative body?”
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