House Democrats seeking to strip police of immunity from civil lawsuits face an uphill battle in the GOP-held Senate and the White House, which considers it a "non-starter" in police reform.
More than 1,400 professional athletes in the Players Coalition wrote to Congress to back the House Democrats' plan to end qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity, which the House Democrats seek to dismantle in their wide-ranging police reform bill proposed this week, shields government officials from being held personally liable for actions performed in the line of duty unless they violate "clearly established" federal law.
"That may be, you know, a bridge too far for a lot of our members," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told The Hill on Wednesday.
Even if the Senate relented to the Democrats' and activists' demands on ending qualified immunity, it would face a swift veto from President Donald Trump. Trump has long considered himself the law and order president, defending police against campaigns to defund them and strip them of authority to protect Americans from criminals.
"I don't see how those things get to the finish line," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is leading the GOP's police reform proposal, told The Hill.
The White House is putting the finishing touches on proposals to reform the police in the wake of George Floyd's killing while in police custody, but White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said reducing immunity for cops is a "non-starter."
The Trump administration's plans to address protester concerns about police brutality are reaching "final edits," she added, saying they might be made public in the "coming days."
Ending the longstanding U.S. legal doctrine of qualified immunity from civil lawsuits is "a lot more controversial" than anything that would be passable in the GOP-led Senate, according to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to The Hill.
"It's a tough job under any set of circumstances and to have lawsuits filed which sort of flyspeck what you did or didn't do at a time when you didn't know whether you know, somebody is trying to kill you or not," Cornyn told The Hill.
"I think you need that sort of balancing of interests that qualified immunity provides."
There is some tepid support for the debate for some in GOP Senate, though, like Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., per the report.
"Most in our conference don't want to go that far, but I'm not ruling it out," Braun told The Hill. "I want to see if I can get a few others interested in looking at that as well, because I think that'd be the one thing that would show that, in our conference, we mean business."
Like the calls to restrict police practices – such as unilateral bans on chokeholds – House Democrats are going to demand ending qualified immunity but will face opposition in the Senate and a likely presidential veto, rendering any police reform passage unrealistic.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.
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