Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat and Chair of the Democratic Black Caucus, speaks during an event with members of the Democratic Caucus on the steps of the Eastern Front of the U.S. Capitol prior to a vote on the George Floyd Justice in the Policing Act of 2020 in Washington, DC, on Thursday June 25, 2020.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Legislators from both parties took part in police reform talks Thursday as Congress attempted to draft a bill that can get through a tightly-knit Capitol.
Eight senators and officials discussed changes in policing, a congressional assistant confirmed to CNBC. Negotiations continued for weeks, with Sens. Tim Scott, RS.C., Cory Booker, DN.J., and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., Along with members of the non-partisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, another Congress, involved adjutant who is familiar with the matter said.
Bass is the lead author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the Democratic House passed for the second time last year and in March. The Republicans reject the bill, which has stalled in a Senate split between the party between 50 and 50.
Scott led a Republican proposal that the Democrats blocked in the Senate last year, at the time it was controlled by the GOP. Since bills require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, the legislation needs to have at least some support from both parties in the chamber.
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It’s unclear what could win support from Democrats and Republicans, who have different views on how far the federal government should go to root out violence against black Americans and abuse of police power. When asked Thursday when the House can vote on a police bill, spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Said, “We will bring it to the ground when we are ready.”
“And we’ll be ready when we have a good, strong bipartisan bill,” she told reporters. “And that’s up to the Senate and then we’ll have it in the house. Because it’ll be a different bill.”
Scott, Booker and Bass were due to join the talks Thursday afternoon, NBC News reported. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, RS.C., and Representatives Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., And Pete Stauber, R-Minn., Were also set to attend , according to NBC.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, George Floyd’s brother Philonise, and other family members of victims of police violence met separately with Scott and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.
George Floyd, a black man, died in May after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for about nine minutes. Chauvin was convicted of second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter earlier this month.
Floyd’s death, along with the police shots of Breonna Taylor, a black woman in Louisville, Kentucky, last year sparked the biggest racial justice and police reform outcry in the United States in decades. During his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to pass a police bill by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death next month.
“The country supports this reform and Congress should act,” said the president. He supported the legislation passed by the House.
The Democrat-approved bill aims to ban chokeholds, carotid holds, and no-knock warrants at the federal level, and tie state and local police funding to those departments that preclude the practices. The aim is to weaken the so-called qualified immunity, which protects civil servants from many civil lawsuits, and to make it easier for the police to prosecute.
Scott’s plan last year included limited bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants. His then party resisted efforts to change the rules on qualified immunity. Democrats called his bill insufficient.
In the past few weeks, the senator has reportedly reached a compromise that would make departments, not individual officials, the subject of civil lawsuits.
Neither the Democratic nor the Republican proposals would cut police funding. Activists and many progressive lawmakers have been calling for some money to be diverted from law enforcement to social services since Floyd’s death.
Many large US cities have either reformed police practices or cut police resources over the past year.
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