WASHINGTON (AP) – A police overhaul may have collapsed in Congress, but House Democrats are returning to Washington for a one-day debate over their sweeping proposal that now signals voters after the global outcry over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans.
The House of Representatives will vote Thursday evening on the Justice in Policing Act, arguably the most ambitious proposed change to police procedures and accountability in decades. Backed by the country’s leading civil rights organizations, it is a legislative effort that tries to match the moment of massive demonstrations that fill the city streets for weeks. It hardly has a chance to become law now.
On the eve of the vote, President Donald Trump’s government indicated that he would vote against the bill. Mitch McConnell, majority of the Senate, has also said it will not pass the Republican Chamber.
Instead, home speaker Nancy Pelosi has called on lawmakers to work from home to the Capitol for a day during the COVID-19 crisis, a day that will almost certainly resonate with symbolism a month after Floyd’s death, but not necessarily a substantive one. way to progress.
Trump recognized after the Senate Democrats blocked GOP police law on Wednesday that it is possible that no law will be passed.
“If nothing happens to it,” Trump said with a shrug, “that’s one of those things. We have different philosophies. ‘
Congress is now in a known deadlock, despite polls showing Americans are overwhelmingly wanting changes after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in law enforcement interactions. But in the stalemate, Democrats and Republicans blame each other as a generational crisis about racial injustice and police tactics explodes outside the door.
The parties are based in their political zones, even if they are not satisfied with the actual outcome. Republicans strongly support their efforts, led by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only black GOP Senator, a uniquely credible voice with his personal experience of racism at the hands of the police. Democrats, led by Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, support progressive and civil rights activists who dismiss the Republican bill as insufficient and push for more.
Now Congress seems to leave it to voters to decide in the fall elections that will determine control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate.
“I’m frustrated,” said Scott after his Democrats blocked his account.
“The problem is, do we matter?” he asked, echoing the words of the Black Lives Matter movement, during a passionate Senate speech that sparked applause from his colleagues. “We said no today.”
But Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Co-author of the Democrats’ package, dismissed his bill as inadequate “crumbs” not responding to a movement spanning American history from Emmett Till to Rodney King today. .
“We are part of a movement that started a long time ago and this movement will not be deterred,” said Harris.
She urged colleagues to “let it be today” and start new conversations about a better account.
Both bills have common elements that could lead to a compromise. They would create a national database of the use of violent incidents, limit police chokeholds and set up new training procedures. The democratic bill goes much further and mandates many of those changes, while also revising the federal police misconduct statute and holding officers personally liable for damages in court cases.
As talks may continue, Democrats are trying to force Republicans to the negotiating table. The two bills, the House and Senate versions, should ultimately be the same to become law.
Neither law goes as far as some activists want with calls to expose the police and transfer funds to other community services.
Republicans and Democrats have brought their account forward as a starting point in the wider debate on how best to change police practices. Scott insisted that he be open to many of the wider changes proposed by the Democrats.
But the Democrats’ mistrust of McConnell’s leadership in leading the Senate is strong, and most Democratic senators did not want to take that opportunity. Instead, Senate Democrats withhold their vote as leverage, believing that once the House Democrats have passed their bill, Senate Republicans facing general sentiment have no choice but to negotiate.
With just a few months before the fall election, that seems increasingly unlikely.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Andrew Taylor and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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