A Senate resolution opposing efforts to defund police departments was blocked Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., with the senior Senate Dem pronouncing the Republican-sponsored measure "an empty field of rhetoric."
According to Fox News, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced the resolution in response to growing calls to defund police agencies amid protests over the death of George Floyd. (Defunding does not mean completely stripping away department funding; it is a term used for plans to reallocate resources and tasks normally assigned to police officers to community and social service programs.)
Cotton tried passing the measure by unanimous consent, meaning any one senator could block it, Fox said.
And one did.
"The great worry so many Americans have is that so many on the other side will feel rhetoric and then try to let this go away. We demand action, and we demand it now. Real action, not rhetoric," Schumer said, according to The Hill. "The resolution by my friend will do, nothing, nothing, it is rhetoric."
Schumer tried to put forth a Democratic police reform bill for consideration by the Senate but was blocked by Cotton, who said he presumed the top Dem "must want to defund the police."
As various news organizations reported, the GOP-led measure mentioned the role law enforcement plays in civil society. It also spoke of justice for Floyd, who died last month while in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. The altercation, which began over an accusation that Floyd was passing a counterfeit $20 bill, was captured on video.
"We know that violent crime disproportionally affects low-income communities, and that law enforcement plays a critical role in protecting life and preserving a free and functioning society," Cruz said. "We also know that law enforcement has an important responsibility in upholding our criminal justice system. Though our nation has taken many troubled turns on our continuing march toward justice, defunding and abolishing police departments will undoubtedly take us backward in that endeavor."
Several GOP senators co-signed the proposal, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
The resolution acknowledged America's dark history of Jim Crow laws, slavery and lynch mobs. It called Floyd's death a horrific act that violated the conduct expected of police, as well as the public trust. But it also cautioned that defunding police departments would leave them "understaffed and undertrained," possibly resulting in a rise in violent crime.
Calls to defund police agencies have increased in the wake of Floyd's Memorial Day death and the protests that have mobilized protests around the world.
Joe Biden, the onetime vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, recently said he instead supports police reform that includes “funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.
President Trump is working with Congress on his own proposals for law enforcement reform to bring about a more gentle form of policing, he has said. But among the ideas floated -- a national database of officers involved with misconduct, for instance -- defunding is not on the table.
Several cities have begun efforts to shift funding from their police departments to other programs. For instance, Fox reported, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles is looking for $250 million in potential cuts to fund other programs. The Los Angeles Times said much of that is to come from the police budget.
And a majority on the Minneapolis City Council has declared support for defunding that city's police force in favor of a community-based public safety model.
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