House passes Democratic police reform bill as impasse deepens
Send a link to a friend
[June 26, 2020]
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of
Representatives approved a sweeping Democratic police reform bill on
Thursday, sending the measure to the Senate despite opposition from
President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 236-181 roughly along party lines
to adopt the legislation, one month to the day after George Floyd's
death in Minneapolis police custody sparked weeks of worldwide protests
over police brutality, especially against African-Americans.
An initial tally showed three Republicans breaking ranks to join
Democrats in voting for the bill.
But the bill, which mandates changes in law and policy to rein in police
misconduct, is unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-led Senate,
where Democrats blocked a Republican reform bill on Wednesday. It also
faces a formal White House veto threat.
Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over how to address racial
inequities in policing, despite strong public sentiment for effective
reform after Floyd died in Minneapolis as a white policeman knelt on his
neck for nearly nine minutes.
"People say, 'Well, why can't you compromise with the other side?' Well,
they don't ban chokeholds. We ban chokeholds. So are we supposed to come
up with a number of chokeholds we are going to agree with? No," House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote.
Aiming to seize the mantle of public opinion surrounding Floyd,
Democrats named their legislation "The George Floyd Justice in Policing
Act" and predict that public pressure will erode Republican resistance.
"I don't think the street will accept no action," Pelosi told the
Republicans and Democrats are also at odds over a Democratic provision
to allow victims of misconduct to sue for damages in civil court.
There was a ray of bipartisanship in the Senate, when the chamber
unexpectedly passed a measure to establish a commission to study the
status of Black men and boys in America, a provision of the Republican
bill by Senator Tim Scott.
Floyd was among a growing number of unarmed African-Americans to die in
[to top of second column]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press event ahead
of vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on the
East Front House Steps on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 25,
2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Seven unarmed Black people have been shot and killed by police so
far in 2020, compared with 14 in 2019, according to a database
maintained by the Post. Those killings do not include people who
died by other means, as Floyd did. And experts say there is a
pervasive lack of data.
Representative Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black
Caucus, which represents over 50 Black lawmakers, said the
Democrats' bill would help prevent killings by ushering in bold,
transformative changes nearly half a century after Black legislators
began pushing for police reforms in the early 1970s.
But Scott, the Senate's only Black Republican and author of the
chamber's failed police reform bill, accused Democrats of rejecting
Republican input on the House bill to deny Trump and his Republican
allies a victory on an issue vital to Black America ahead of the
"This is pure race politics at its worst," Scott said on Fox News,
warning that congressional inaction will leave Black Americans
vulnerable to further police violence. "There will be blood on the
Democrats' hands," he said.
Scott later told reporters that momentum toward compromise was
"dissipating as we speak."
Democrats denounce Scott's bill as too ineffective to protect Black
Americans because of its reliance on financial incentives and data
The Democratic and Republican bills address similar topics:
chokeholds, no-knock warrants, police body cameras, use of deadly
force, and training to de-escalate confrontations with suspects and
to encourage officer intervention against illegal conduct as it
Republicans oppose the Democratic bill because of mandates they say
could undermine law enforcement.
(Reporting by David Morgan, additional reporting by Patricia
Zengerle and Richard Cowan; editing by Peter Cooney, Jonathan Oatis
and Grant McCool)
[© 2020 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2020 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.