Senate GOP unveils police reform proposal

Senate Republicans unveiled a police reform proposal on Wednesday that aims to end the use of chokeholds and includes new accountability and reporting requirements.

The proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), will come to the Senate floor next week, where Republicans will try to formally bring it up for a debate.

The bill comes amid growing signs of urgency from within the Senate GOP caucus to respond to weeks of calls for reforms sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed while detained by Minneapolis police.

“We find ourselves at a place with a package that I think speaks to the families that I spoke with yesterday that lost loved ones, we hear you. I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who is concerned when he’s stopped by the law enforcement officers, we see you,” said Scott, one of three African Americans in the Senate and the only Republican.

Scott said the bill focuses on three areas: data collection, training and officer misconduct and transparency.

In language that largely lines up with President Trump’s executive order, the bill would block state and local law enforcement departments from getting COPS and Byrne grants if they do not have a ban on chokeholds in place.

In addition to trying to incentivize police departments to ban chokeholds, the GOP bill also includes new requirements on reporting the use of force by police and the use of no-knock warrants.

The bill also includes new penalties for not using body cameras, has new requirements on law enforcement records retention and would include a separate bill that makes lynching a federal hate crime, which has been stalled in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The press conference with Scott, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and several other GOP senators came as Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee held a vote on their police reform bill, which was introduced last week.

Scott argued that there were broad areas of overlap between the two bills, including new reporting requirements and trying to end the use of chokeholds. But there are also deep policy divisions, including on qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers from lawsuits, and no-knock warrants.

The Democratic bill would overhaul qualified immunity and end the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases. Scott signaled on Wednesday that he was open to having conversations but warned that some areas would not be able to win over Republican support.

The GOP proposal will face a test text week when McConnell said he will force an initial procedural vote where the plan will need 60 votes, including support from seven Democratic senators, in order to formally start debate on the bill.

“After we do two circuit judges that are queued up … we’re going to turn the Scott bill. I’m going to file cloture on the motion to proceed, and our Democratic friends if they want to make a law, and not just make a point, I hope they’ll join us in getting on the bill,” McConnell said on Wednesday.

Asked if he was having active negotiations with Democrats about changes to the bill that could potentially get them on board before the motion to proceed votes, Scott told reporters “not with me.”

“If we don’t have the votes on a motion to proceed, that means that politics is more important than restoring confidence in communities of color,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday didn’t say if Democrats would block the bill from being debated but said that it was “ineffective.”

“I will be talking to my caucus about the best way to strengthen it. This bill will need dramatic improvement. Let me be clear, this is not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is about making the ineffective the enemy of the effective,” Schumer said.

“The question is whether legislation will bring the change we so desperately need or fail to make those necessary changes, fail to stop more black Americans from dying at the hands of police. … The Republican bill has a long way to go to meet this moment,” Schumer added.

Updated at 10:47 a.m.

Tags Chokeholds Chuck Schumer Donald Trump George Floyd protests Mitch McConnell police reform Rand Paul Tim Scott

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