Republican police reform bill blocked in US Senate
Washington: US Senate Democrats blocked a closely-watched police reform bill on Thursday, arguing that the Republican measure introduced after George Floyd’s killing by police does not go nearly far enough.
Supporters fell short of the 60 vote threshold, 55-45, with just three Democrats joining Republicans in voting to advance the legislation.
The impasse has left the opposing political parties feuding over crafting new guidelines to address police brutality after weeks of protests led to a national reckoning on racial injustice and police accountability.
Attention now turns to the House, where Democrats intend to pass their own, more sweeping police bill Thursday.
But the Senate deadlock highlights how difficult it may be for a divided Congress to negotiate a compromise on such legislation in the months before a presidential election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his party’s measure was a “first step” that would allow floor debate on police reforms, but that Democrats balked.
“The only way there is any downside for Democrats to come to the table is if they’d rather preserve this urgent subject as a live campaign issue than pass a bipartisan answer,” he said.
The Republican proposal, which President Donald Trump supports, would discourage but not ban tactics like choke holds, a flashpoint issue given that Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on the handcuffed African-American man’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
It would provide for more de-escalation training and send officers’ use-of-force information into a national database aimed at weeding out bad cops.
But it does not end or limit qualified immunity, the controversial doctrine that protects police from being sued for misconduct.
And instead of direct mandates, the Republican measure would incentivize change by denying federal grants to police departments that do not end choke holds or no-knock warrants.
“The Republican bill does not even attempt ONE significant reform to bring more accountability to police officers who are guilty of misconduct,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer fumed.
The measure is so “irrevocably” flawed that “it can not serve as a useful starting point for meaningful reform,” he added.
Trump accused Democrats of sinking the Republican bill “because they want to weaken our police” and end officer immunity.
The president also signaled his opposition to toughening the bill’s language to hold officers more accountable.
“We won’t sacrifice,” Trump said. “We won’t do anything that’s going to hurt our police.”
The House bill would restrict qualified immunity and ban choke holds and no-knock warrants, which have been blamed in several cases of deadly force by police.
Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the chamber and author of the Justice Act, said about 70 percent of its reform provisions align with the Democratic proposals.
But he told Democrats they would “get zero” of what they wanted unless they came to the negotiating table. - AFP