Democrats demand more changes, greater accountability in GOP police bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing ahead with a test vote Wednesday, but without Democratic backing the bill is not expected to advance.
By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON — Top Senate Democrats said Tuesday the Republican policing bill is “not salvageable,” as they demand negotiations on a new, more bipartisan package with more extensive law enforcement changes and accountability in response to the killing of Black Americans.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer signaled the Democrats intend to block the GOP package, which Democrats say does not go far enough to meet the moment that has galvanized the nation with massive demonstrations over police procedures.
“We don't need to study the problem of police misconduct and violence, we need to solve it," Schumer said on the Senate floor.
The Democratic opposition is being backed by the nation’s leading civil rights organizations and the lawyer, Benjamin Crump, representing the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two African Americans whose deaths in police interactions sparked worldwide protests over racial bias in policing.
“The Black community is tired of the lip service,” Crump said in a statement.
The Republican legislation would create a national database of police use-of-force incidents, restrict police chokeholds and set up new training procedures. It is not as sweeping as a Democratic proposal, which mandates many of the changes.
The standoff does not end the debate. Democrats are trying to force Republicans to the negotiating table to build a more robust package more aligned with their own bill, set to be approved by the House later this week. The House and Senate versions would ultimately need to be the same to become law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing ahead with the Justice Act in a test vote Wednesday, but without Democratic backing the bill is not expected to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance.
“We’re ready to make a law, not just make a point,” McConnell said as he opened the Senate on Tuesday. He said Americans “deserve better than a partisan stalemate.”
McConnell said, “We’ll find out whether our Democratic colleagues share our ambition or whether they chose to duck the issue and leave the country in the lurch.”
Schumer and the co-authors of the Democrats’ proposed package, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., wrote in a letter to McConnell that the Republican bill is “not salvageable and we need bipartisan talks to get to a constructive starting point.”
They called the GOP effort “threadbare and lacking.”
Congress is under enormous pressure to establish new oversight and accountability of the police as demonstrations spill into cities large and small nationwide.
During floor debate, Republicans insisted Democrats would have a chance to amend any bill if they allow the debate to begin. But Democrats countered there is no agreement their changes would be up for consideration.
“Now is the time for Congress to pass legislation that will bring real change,” Harris said.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Fund is urging senators to vote against advancing the GOP package.
“In this moment, we cannot support legislation that does not embody a strong accountability framework for police officers and other law enforcement who engage in misconduct as well as needed reforms to policing practices,” the organization wrote to senators, according to a letter obtained by AP.
Crump, the attorney for the families, said the GOP package is “in direct contrast to the demands of the people, who have taken to the streets, to call for the reallocation of resources in order to improve social safety nets and public mental health programs.”