Senate Republicans are crafting their own legislation to compete with House Democrats’ plan to overhaul policing across the country, though there are already some areas for potential common ground.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tasked Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican senator, to lead the team drafting the bill in response to nationwide protests and violence in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Mr. McConnell explicitly acknowledged the GOP needs a “proposal to allow us to respond to the obvious racial discrimination that we’ve seen on full display on our television screens over the last two weeks.”
“We’re still wrestling with America’s original sin,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We try to get better, but every now and then it is perfectly clear we’re a long way from the finish line. I think the best way for Senate Republicans to go forward on this is to listen to one of our own who had these experiences [as a black American].”
Details about the GOP package remained under wraps. But Mr. Scott said they are considering anti-lynching provision, banning “no-knock” police warrants, reforming training protocols, and beefing up laws and funding for body-cameras — all issues addressed in the Democrats’ bill.
The GOP’s moves toward a policing overhaul comes a day after House and Senate Democrats introduced their package of sweeping changes for police, including nationwide anti-bias training and use-of-force standards.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer plans to bring the bill to the floor by the week of June 22.
“There’s time for bipartisan cooperation on this bill. We welcome it and look forward to their thoughts and suggestions,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on Mr. McConnell to schedule a vote in the upper chamber on a policing bill by the beginning of July, but the GOP leader would only say he hoped it will be in the “near future.”
Several GOP senators have highlighted the types of proposals they could support.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, said he was interested in creating federal sentencing guidelines, union reform or potentially a ban on police using chokeholds.
The chokehold ban is in the Democrats’ bill.
“I think reform talk is smart. I think defunding police departments is ridiculous. We’re seeing people — policymakers and others — coming more to a reasonable place to discuss,” he said.
Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun said he was “actually seriously thinking about qualified immunity,” a policy change proposed by Democrats that would make it easier to sue police officers for misconduct in the line of duty. He acknowledged that it would be a tough sell to the party but viewed the current moment as a turning point.
Still, conservatives remained leery on imposing federal mandates for police departments that they think should be controlled by state or local government.
It also was unclear what measures President Trump would support. Mr. Trump, a staunch supporter of police, so far has focused on denouncing the far-left push to defund police departments and ramped up his calls for “law and order.”
NBC News reported late Tuesday that the White House could unveil its ideas on policing reform as early as Thursday, citing two senior administration officials. The package would be a mix of legislative proposals and executive actions, and may recommend a more comprehensive database of police misconduct incidents.
Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf have dismissed the notion that there is systemic racism in policing.
“I think there is racism in the United States still, but I don’t think the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Mr. Barr said recently. “I understand the distrust, however, of the African American community given the history in this country.”