Senate Democrats blast “unsalvageable” GOP police reform bill on eve of key vote

Congressional Democrats indicated they are unwilling to support the police reform bill proposed by Senate Republicans, arguing the measure does not go far enough to address police brutality. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that the bill, spearheaded by GOP Senator Tim Scott, does not have enough votes to move forward in the Senate.

“There is no escaping the fact that the Senate Republicans have drafted a policing bill that is deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It’s clear the Republican bill, as is, will not get 60 votes. There’s overwhelming opposition to the bill in our caucus.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “there is literally no harm in debating this important topic.”

Republicans would need the support of seven Democrats to reach the 60 votes required to move forward on the bill. House Democrats have proposed their own measure, but McConnell has said he would not bring the legislation to the Senate floor after it passes in the House.

Scott’s proposal would require increased reporting of use of force by police officers and no-knock warrants, provide grants for law enforcement to be equipped with body cameras and require departments to maintain and share officer disciplinary records. It also would establish several commissions, including one studying the conditions affecting black men and boys and one reviewing best practices for police departments.

However, Democratic Senator Cory Booker argued in a speech on Tuesday that Scott’s bill is too modest.

“The American people are not in the streets chanting ‘we want more data, we want more data.’ The American people are not in the streets chanting ‘give us a commission, give us a commission.’ We know the data. We have had commissions,” Booker said. “The problem with the bill that Leader McConnell wants to put on the floor, it’s not bold.  It’s not courageous.”

Schumer, Booker and Senator Kamala Harris sent a letter on Tuesday calling the Republican bill “unsalvageable.”

Senate Republicans have accused Democrats of standing in the way of potential progress. McConnell told reporters Tuesday that moving forward on the issue “requires some level of cooperation from the other side.” GOP Senator John Cornyn questioned Harris on the Senate floor as to why Democrats would not vote to bring the bill to the floor for debate.

“If the Democratic Conference is going to prevent the Senate from actually getting on the bill, there’s no opportunity for anyone, any senator, you or any one of us to offer amendments to improve it,” Cornyn said. Harris replied that she would prefer to negotiate in open meetings by the Judiciary Committee.

“We have asked that there would be a meaningful discussion of the Justice in Policing Act in that committee, none has occurred. So, if we’re going to talk about process, let us look at all the tools that are available to well-intentioned well-meaning legislators if the goal is actually to solve and address the issue at hand. I’ve seen no evidence of that,” Harris said, referring to the bill proposed by Democrats in the House.

The House bill would reform qualified immunity, meaning that individuals would be able to recover damages when their constitutional rights are violated by law enforcement officers. It would also ban no-knock warrants in drug cases, and ban police chokeholds.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview with CBS News Radio that she did not see a place for compromise between the two bills.

“We’re saying, ‘No chokeholds.’ They’re not saying, ‘No chokeholds.’ I mean, there’s a big difference there. What’s the compromise? ‘Some chokeholds’? I don’t see what the compromise is,” Pelosi said.

There is some overlap between the Republican and Democratic bills. The House measure would also require that federal law enforcement officers wear body cameras, and limit transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement. Both bills also include a section making lynching a hate crime.

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