- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to set up a procedural vote on the Republican policing package for Wednesday morning.

The Kentucky Republican called on Democrats to support the vote, which would allow for a formal debate and amendment process on the package, written by Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the party’s only Black senator.

“Seems to me that proceeding to consider Sen. Scott’s legislation, proceeding to take up the subject on the Senate floor would only be an agonizing prospect if members were more interested in making a point than actually making a law,” he said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

“I hope that whatever strange political calculations are making this difficult for our friends across the aisle will yield to common sense and the American’s people for progress,” he added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she’s interested in working out a deal in conference, but to get there Senate Republicans have to attract support from Democrats to stop a possible filibuster in the GOP-run Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called the GOP package “piecemeal and halfhearted” with no real substance to create meaningful change.

“The Republican proposal comes across like a list of suggestions. I would repeat this important warning. If we pass a bill that’s ineffective, the killings continue and police departments resist change, and there’s no accountability,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor. “It is truly a matter of life and death. And unfortunately, Sen. Scott’s bill is deeply and fundamentally flawed.”

The bill needs 60 votes to move on to a final passage vote. Seven Democrats need to cross party lines and join the Senate’s 53 Republicans on voting for the bill, setting up a test of whether there can be bipartisan cooperation to get a police overhaul package across the finish line.

Some Democrats could vote to start debating the bill even if they don’t back the legislation as a way to start the discussion before lawmakers break for the July Fourth holiday.

Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat, said this week he would be inclined to support starting debate even if he doesn’t vote for final passage of Mr. Scott’s bill.

“I’d like to see it strengthen[ed], because I think the American people want something to happen, they want something good, something bold, something dramatic,” Mr. Jones, who is up for reelection this year, said on MSNBC.

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said the bigger question is if Democrats can trust Mr. McConnell to allow any amendments to go through. He argued it makes sense for the Democrats to allow the procedural vote to pass and reserve their ability to cause a political ruckus for the passage or conference stage if they’re shut down during the debate phase.

Meanwhile, the Democrat-led House can muscle through its version without Republican support.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said on Monday that they’re aiming for a Thursday vote.

“It is [the] strongest possible bill, the most transformative, and the most comprehensive,” Mr. Jeffries, New York Democrat, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

President Trump has urged congressional Republicans to hold the line.

“The Democrat House wants to pass a Bill this week that will destroy our police,” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday evening. “Republican Congressmen & Congresswomen will hopefully fight hard to defeat it. We must protect and cherish our police, they keep us safe!”

The package would ramp up requirements for police departments to report on use of force and “no-knock” warrants and would provide incentives for bans on chokeholds.

It provides grants for training resources and body cameras, with penalties for improper use of the recording devices, filing false police reports, or serious bodily injuries that lead to prosecution. It also establishes commissions and invests in data collection to target new policies and where funds can be used.

Republicans have stayed away from implementing national mandates, saying the House Democrats’ approach is too heavy-handed. One key example is in how each side approaches chokeholds, which lawmakers in both parties want to rein in.

Both Democrats and Republicans tie chokeholds to federal funds — but the House bill would allow access to the funding only if the practice is banned, while the Senate bill conditions it on “severely restricting” the practice with exceptions to protect the officer’s life.

The Democrats’ package goes further than what many Republicans have said is acceptable by proposing a national use of force standard, creating a national misconduct registry, and opening up officers to civil lawsuits for actions resulting from carrying out their duties by limiting qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity is one of the biggest sticking points between the two bills, with Democrats set on scaling back the liability protections and the White House and hard-line conservatives opposed to it.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide