Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposal to hire 100,000 police officers across the country has received rare bipartisan support in the Senate.
The Missouri Republican’s amendment passed by a 95-3 vote Wednesday, signaling a willingness from both parties to expand policing.
The measure, which is nonbinding, voices support for sending grants to local municipalities to hire more law enforcement officers as the country faces a rise in violent crime and a rash of officers quitting the force.
“As you have recognized, putting 100,000 more officers on the beat is vitally important for public safety,” Mr. Hawley wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter Wednesday. “Defunding the police is exactly wrong; we must increase funding for new cops.”
The three members who objected were Sens. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, Mike Lee, Utah Republican, and Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, claimed that Mr. Hawley’s amendment is actually an extension of President Biden’s 1994 initiative to hire more police, which passed when Mr. Biden was serving as a senator from Delaware.
“The senator from Missouri is finally coming around to supporting the COPS hiring program that was created by Senator Joe Biden in 1994,” Mr. Durbin said on the Senate floor. “We believe in it on the Democratic side. We’re glad you’ve come around.”
The White House also credited the president, calling the GOP-support of hiring more police officers “a long overdue, but appreciated shift.”
Mr. Hawley and other Republicans in both chambers of Congress have accused Democrats of trying to “defund the police,” a slogan that got tied to the party when some members embraced it after the 2020 death of George Floyd.
Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat, was the target of GOP criticism last week because she advocated for defunding police, while also paying for her own personal security detail.
“Defunding the police has to happen,” Ms. Bush said on CBS News. “We need to defund the police and put money into social safety nets because we’re trying to save lives.”
Some moderate Democrats have pushed back on such rhetoric, blaming 2020 election losses on Republican-backed attacks that painted the majority party as anti-police.
“I think the ability, using terms like ‘defund the police’ have led to Democratic losses in this last year,” said Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, who is considered a centrist in his party.
A USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, conducted from March 1-2, found that only 18% of people support the idea of defunding police.
The poll also found 58% of people opposed the idea, including 67% of white Americans and 84% of Republicans.
About 28% of Black Americans and 34% of Democrats were supportive of it.
The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.
The heightened interest in increasing law enforcement comes as violent crime surges across the country.
In 2020, there was a 25% uptick in homicides across cities and towns of various sizes. Homicides have remained higher than the normal rate throughout the first half of 2021, bucking a decades-long trend of decreasing homicide rates, according to criminologists.