Senate Democrats blocked a police reform bill Wednesday, calling on the African-American Senator who wrote it to start over.
Democrat House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has refused to apologize for stating “So far, they were trying to get away with murder, actually — the murder of George Floyd,” she said. Republicans said it was bad taste for her to use the language in connection with a bill sponsored by one of only three blacks in the Senate.
The JUSTICE Act, authored by Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, failed to garner the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the measure after Democrats refused to move it forward.
The bill would have mostly banned police chokeholds, required full reporting of deaths and injuries in police custody, expanded the use of body cameras by law enforcement, and created a commission on black men and boys, among many other other provisions called for by the black community.
“It’s a straightforward plan, based on facts, based on data and lived experience,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said. “It focuses on improving accountability and restoring trust. It addresses key issues like chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It expands reporting and transparency and hiring and training for de-escalation.”
After the measure failed to win enough votes, McConnell set up the legislation for fast reconsideration at some point in the future, which opens the door to negotiations with Democrats on a bill that could win enough support to advance.
Democrats want to abandon Scott’s bill and begin from scratch in the Judiciary Committee.
Some bipartisan talks are already ongoing, Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, told reporters.
But a top GOP aide warned that Democrats appear unwilling to strike a deal with the GOP because it would anger their far-left base, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and give President Trump an election-year victory.
“They have zero interest in doing anything which could be seen as helpful, directly or indirectly, to President Trump,” the aide said. “They are also worried about the growing power of the mob and the ‘Squad.’”
Democrats had ramped up their criticism of the GOP bill ahead of Wednesday’s vote. Pelosi told CBS News the GOP bill could not be fixed, even before the negotiation period began.
McConnell and other top Republicans excoriated Democrats for blocking the bill.
“It is clear to me it is an unpardonable sin for Democrats to work with Republicans to try to solve a problem that may benefit Donald Trump,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said.
Democrats, Graham said, “are now refusing to even try and find common ground with Republicans on police reform.”
As Democrats voted to block the African-American Senator-sponsored bill, the House Rules Committee began consideration of the Democratic police reform measure which has come under scrutiny for its treatment of police officers who have done nothing wrong.
Sen. Tom Cole, the top Republican on the panel, called the measure “a partisan bill” that “completely shut Republicans out of the process.”