- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Senate Democrats are rejecting sight unseen their Republican counterparts’ bill to overhaul policing in America, not waiting for the legislation to be introduced before panning it as piecemeal changes that don’t tackle racism and brutality.

As Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, readies to release the package as soon as Wednesday, Democrats are telling reporters it just doesn’t cut it.

Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, said the GOP proposal was “heavy on gestures and light on meaningful reforms.”

“If we’re serious about confronting police brutality and excessive use of force, this bill is not the solution,” he told Politico last week.

Mr. Booker also predicted on CBS that the bill would be the “lowest common denominator.”

“When we stop short and start talking about finding a bill that’s the lowest common denominator, it is meaning that we will revisit this again when another unarmed black person gets killed, and the nation erupts,” he said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, California Democrat, also dismissed the bill, telling reporters “it does not meet the moment.”

The divide between parties appears to be over banning chokeholds and reducing qualified immunity, which shields officers from lawsuits over actions in the line of duty.

Democrats want both changes in the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is pushing for the chamber to take up the House Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act, saying it was the “comprehensive” approach.

“Our Republican colleagues seem to be on a path towards taking a much, much narrower, less inclusive approach. That is wrong,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“Some Senate Republicans have endorsed individual proposals in our bill, like qualified immunity reform and bans on chokeholds, but it looks like these policies may not be included in a Republican bill,” he said. “While our bill recognizes that a strong federal response is necessary to bring change to every police department in America, the Republicans — it seems — are going to leave much of the task up to the states.”

Republicans still hope some of their Democratic colleagues will want to work across the aisle, as Mr. Scott’s legislation contains bipartisan overhauls.

Sean Smith, communications director for Mr. Scott, urged Democrats not to play politics.

“Senator Scott continues work on the JUSTICE Act, which is built on a foundation of bipartisan ideas such as increasing the use of body cameras, increasing training around de-escalation and use of force, and the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act,” Mr. Smith told The Washington Times. “Now is our time to act, and Democrats letting politics get in the way is the absolute last thing our nation needs right now. We challenge them to work with us towards solutions, not hide behind a shield of partisan politics.”

The renewed push for police policy changes comes in the wake of the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes during an arrest.

The officer and three others have been charged in Floyd’s death.

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