Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate may vote as early as next week on a Republican-authored police reform bill, rejecting a proposal by House Democrats that would strip on-the-job immunity from law enforcement.
“The House version is going nowhere in the Senate,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters following a closed-door GOP meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Republican lawmakers are debating what to include in their proposal, but it is expected to be unveiled Wednesday, lawmakers said.
Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who is black, is the lead sponsor.
According to a draft measure, the bill would require police to report data on those seriously injured or killed in custody and to supply information on who is subjected to “no-knock” warrants.
The measure would also ban chokeholds, Republican lawmakers said.
The House measure goes further to mandate change in police tactics. It would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants and would require independent investigations and independent prosecutions when police misuse deadly force and would require a report to be filed with the state’s attorney general to increase accountability.
The biggest gap between the Democratic bill and the GOP measure is a provision in the House bill that would also change qualified immunity for police, making them accountable for deaths that occur by “knowingly or reckless disregard” for a person’s safety.
Most Republicans and President Trump rejected the provision.
“They want to federalize all of these issues,” McConnell said, criticizing the House bill. “That’s a nonstarter. It’s basically typical Democratic overreach, to try to control everything in Washington. We have no interest in this.”
McConnell said he would decide tomorrow whether to bring up Scott’s police reform bill next and postpone a plan to consider a Defense spending authorization measure.
McConnell said rather than negotiating with Democrats on changes ahead of floor consideration, he’ll bring Scott’s bill to the floor as written.
It takes 60 votes to proceed to a bill, and the GOP controls only 53 votes. That means at least seven Democrats would have to vote in favor of proceeding in order to beat back a filibuster.
“At that point, Democrats have to make a decision,” McConnell said. “Do they want to prevent this bill from going to the floor, or do they want to get on it and try to change it?”
Democrats have complained about the GOP bill as insufficient to address police misconduct and racial bias, which has prompted civil unrest in cities throughout the country.
Democrats said more federal reforms are needed to curb the deaths of black people at the hands of the police.
They criticized President Trump’s announcement on Tuesday to increase police training and severely limit the use of chokeholds, saying it did not go far enough to force police department reforms.
Trump’s order sets guidelines for police departments to meet certain standards on the use of force, including chokeholds, if they want access to federal grants. It also creates a federal database of officers for police misconduct. A chokehold would be permitted only if an officer was facing lethal force.
“We heard from President Trump that he was going to have a very strong executive order, and it’s weak tea,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat. “Congress needs to pass strong, bold legislation that improves transparency, accountability, and training into our nation’s police departments, and President Trump must commit to signing such a bill into law.”
Schumer declined to indicate whether Democrats would be willing to vote to bring the bill to the floor, which would give them an opportunity to change it with amendments.
“We haven’t made any decisions,” Schumer said. “We’re waiting to see Tim Scott’s bill.”
Senate Republicans are eager to bring up the bill and pass it ahead of the July 4 recess, even if it means working long days and weekends, said Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican.
“The reform bill is an important bill,” Kennedy said. “We are putting it on the floor to achieve a result, and if my Democratic friends have the same intention, I think we can pass something.”
Author: Susan Ferrechio
Source: Washington Examiner: McConnell rejects House police reform bill and plans vote on GOP version