Schumer: GOP police reform bill ‘does not rise to the moment’

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Wednesday panned a Republican police reform bill crafted by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), saying it falls short of what is needed to address police brutality and violence.

“We’ve only had the bill for a few hours and are reviewing it, but what’s clear is that the Senate Republican proposal on policing does not rise to the moment,” Schumer said.

His sharp criticism of the GOP bill, which Scott crafted with a working group of Senate Republican colleagues, casts doubt on whether the legislation can muster the 60 votes needed to begin debate on it next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday morning he will schedule a motion to proceed to police reform next week.

“I hope they’ll join us in getting on the bill and trying to move forward,” McConnell said.

But the prospect of even holding a floor debate on the issue is starting to look doubtful.

Schumer on Wednesday highlighted several differences between Scott’s bill and a joint Senate-House Democratic police reform package unveiled last week.

Schumer noted the Democratic bill has a ban on no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, while the Republican bill “only requires data on no-knock warrants.”

He also argued that the Democratic bill would create a publicly available nationwide database on police misconduct so that abusive officers can’t simply transfer to other departments when they get into trouble.

“The Republican bill would keep such information almost entirely shielded from public view,” Schumer said.

He also pointed out what he called the Democratic bill’s “ban” on chokeholds and argued “the Republican bill purports to ban chokeholds but only those that restrict air flow and not blood flow” and would create an exception for when an officer’s life is in danger.

“Who determines when deadly force is needed? Usually the police themselves and the courts defer to their judgment,” Schumer said.

He also criticized the GOP bill for being “silent on racial profiling and militarization of local police departments.”

But he argued the “greatest flaw” in the Republican proposal was the lack of language to reform the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which protects officers accused of civil rights violations from lawsuits. 

“So we have a tale of two chambers, a glaring contrast between a strong, comprehensive Democratic bill in the House and a much narrower and much less effective Republican bill in the Senate,” he said.

Scott told reporters Wednesday that he has had several conversations with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), one of the lead sponsors of the Democratic police reform bill.

Scott also defended his legislation from claims it would not ban chokeholds. He noted that the measure would withhold federal funding from departments that continue to train officers in the use of chokeholds.

Scott said the “inability to have any grants if your department has chokeholds that, frankly, is by default a ban on chokeholds.”

The Democratic package includes language that would make the use of a chokehold a violation of civil rights, but Scott argued Wednesday that the language is unnecessary and such a use of deadly force is already covered by civil rights law.

Proponents of the GOP bill argue it would dramatically increase the number of police body cameras in use.

“We ought to be voting 100 to zero to get on this bill next week and try to make it better,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of Scott’s working group. 

Tags Ben Sasse Chokeholds Chuck Schumer Cory Booker Mitch McConnell police reform Tim Scott

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