Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has set the stage for an early showdown vote Wednesday over legislation to overhaul policing practices across the nation after George Floyd’s May 25 death while under restraint by Minneapolis police.
The Senate will vote on a motion to bring up a GOP measure that would boost accountability and training for police officers and make lynching a federal crime for the first time. But Democrats in both chambers have a joint proposal that goes further, including a provision that would end the “qualified immunity” that shields police officers from lawsuits if they operate in “good faith.”
Republicans lack the 60 votes needed to advance their legislation, so McConnell will need some Democrats to support considering the bill. Democratic leaders want assurances that they’ll have a chance to amend it. Otherwise Democrats could block the legislation and potentially doom its prospects before the 2020 elections.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated last week she was anticipating negotiations with the Senate over the competing versions after her chamber passes Democrats’ bill, likely on Thursday. McConnell noted her remarks on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
“The only group left in Washington D.C. that are reportedly agonizing over whether to block a discussion of police reform or let it proceed seem to be our Senate Democratic colleagues,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continued to criticize the Republican measure, introduced by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He said the bill mostly reads “like a list of suggestions” to local and state police departments and that it isn’t “genuine police reform.”
“This is not a time for studies, or commissions, or tinkering around the edges,” he said.
Both the Democratic proposal and Scott’s legislation would establish a federal database to track use-of-force incidents involving state and local police officers, and withhold some federal funds to those that don’t participate.
But they take different approaches to the use of chokeholds on suspects, no-knock warrants in drug cases and body cameras. And most notably, Scott’s bill is silent on “qualified immunity.”
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