Policing Overhaul Negotiations Collapse on Capitol Hill
(Bloomberg) -- Bipartisan talks to craft an overhaul of U.S. policing practices are at an impasse, dashing efforts to write legislation after last year’s killing of George Floyd at the hands of a White Minneapolis police officer, Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Wednesday.
“It was clear we were not making the progress that we needed to make to give America, after the largest civil rights protests we’ve had in our country’s history, substantive and meaningful reform,” Booker said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of things very substantively that we could not close the gap on.”
The negotiations involved Booker, Democratic Representative Karen Bass of California, and Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who blamed Democrats for the stalemate.
“Despite having plenty of agreement, Democrats said no because they could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement,” Scott said in a statement. “Once again, the Left let their misguided idea of perfect be the enemy of good, impactful legislation.
The lawmakers were seeking agreement on legislation that would limit the transfer of some military equipment to local police departments, set federal standards for no-knock warrants and ban the use of choke holds except in life-threatening situations. It also sought to establish a federal database to track use-of-force incidents involving state and local police officers, and would withhold some federal funds from those that don’t participate.
The talks, however, stalled over issues that include whether to let families of victims of police violence sue police officers for damages in civil lawsuits. Scott balked at having such a provision, and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell also insisted it be left out.
President Joe Biden has urged Congress to send him legislation, and he and Vice President Kamala Harris met privately with Floyd’s family in May. In a statement after Booker’s announcement, Biden said he isn’t giving up on a measure that can clear Congress, and that he will continue working with Booker, Bass, policing groups and others on it. Still, without Senate Republicans on board, legislation could be blocked by a filibuster.
“Regrettably, Senate Republicans rejected enacting modest reforms, which even the previous president had supported, while refusing to take action on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address,” Biden said.
Bass said in a statement that Scott and Republicans kept asking for more concessions during talks, thwarting success.
“We accepted significant compromises, knowing that they would be a tough sell to our community, but still believing that we would be moving the needle forward on this issue,” Bass said in a statement. “But every time, more was demanded to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing.”
Scott said Democrats “squandered” the chance for an agreement but that he would “continue to work with anyone who is serious about finding bipartisan solutions that bring justice, fairness, and safety for the most vulnerable among us.”
The protests and rage that followed Floyd’s death have ebbed since last summer. But the April conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on second-degree murder and lesser charges for cutting off Floyd’s air supply as he lay handcuffed and begging for mercy gave new impetus to the search for compromise.
The development is a another blow for Democrats who are facing setbacks on other top issues in their agenda that are key to minorities in their party’s base.
Senate Republicans later this month are expected to block for a third time Democratic legislation overhauling U.S. voting laws that is designed to counter a record number of new voting restrictions emerging from GOP-led state legislatures. And earlier this week, the Senate parliamentarian blocked Democrats from including a plan to provide legal status to as many as 8 million undocumented immigrants in a broad package encompassing Biden’s economic agenda that could pass without GOP support.
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