McConnell on JUSTICE Act: I Hope We Can Step Up and Stand Together

'Senator Scott’s JUSTICE Act provides solutions that are as sober, as serious, and as significant as this watershed moment demands…This is another one of those issues that needs to be addressed, needs to be addressed now, and can only be addressed in the Senate if both sides are willing to work together.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the JUSTICE Act:

“Breonna Taylor.

“George Floyd.

“Over the last several months, our country has been shaken by the killings of more Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. And the people of this country have called for change.

“The United States of America is not a fundamentally racist country. We are the greatest nation in world history, built on the promise of liberty and justice for all. But our founding promise was stained by the sins of slavery and racial prejudice.

“Generations of Americans have spent more than a century working to remediate that stain. We fought a Civil War. Black Americans led a movement that won historic Supreme Court wins and landmark federal legislation. We have squeezed racist lies out of mainstream society and relegated them to a pathetic fringe.

“But the events of the last few weeks have reminded this country that the stain is not totally gone. We have more work to do.

“While the far left has tried to exploit Americans’ pain and anger to push insane policies like defunding or disbanding all police, or nonsense claims like the assertion that enforcing laws is inherently racist, the rest of the country has been busy uniting around some common-sense truths.

“When Black Americans tell us they do not feel safe in their own communities, we need to listen.

“When American citizens lack faith in our justice system from start to finish, we need to respond.

“When the equal protection of the laws feel to some Americans like a contingency of demographics and not a universal fact of life, we need to act.

“So that is what this Republican Senate majority is doing today. We are acting.

“Sadly, the junior Senator for South Carolina is no stranger to this subject himself.

“Senator Scott has led the construction of a strong proposal that will increase transparency, grow accountability, and advance the cause of police reform without lashing out at the lion’s share of brave law enforcement officers who serve bravely and well.

“Later today, he will introduce this new legislation. And it will be the very next bill we consider here on the Senate floor. We will be turning to this bill next week.

“Senator Scott’s JUSTICE Act provides solutions that are as sober, as serious, and as significant as this watershed moment demands. Faced with the fact that policing is primarily a local and state, rather than federal, concern, our colleague has nevertheless found a variety of levers that Congress can pull to advance, incentivize, and insist on the changes that we need to see.

“We need to encourage police departments across America to implement practical reforms — like ending chokeholds, training their officers to de-escalate tense situations, and having prior disciplinary records play a greater role in hiring. This bill does that.

“We need to increase accountability so that bad officers are easy to spot and good officers’ good names stay clear. This bill does that. It will get more body cameras on the streets, help ensure they’re used properly, and disseminate new best practices for discipline, suspension, or dismissal when necessary. 

“We also need more transparency, so communities have greater visibility into local law enforcement. This bill does that, too. We’ll require full reporting to the FBI when a local officer has used force or discharged his or her weapon.

“And in a subject that has tragically become a major focus for my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, we address no-knock warrants as well.  We will require new transparency and new reporting from state and local authorities so that surrounding communities and the federal government can all better understand how, when, and why this practice is used.

“These are just some of the major parts of our colleagues’ legislation.

“The JUSTICE Act will also finally make lynching a federal crime. It will close the consent loophole by forbidding law enforcement from taking advantage of people in their custody. And more.

“This legislation is a substantial effort to help our nation make major headway on substantial challenges. I am grateful to Senator Scott for his leadership. I appreciate the contributions of Chairman Graham and Senators Capito, Cornyn, Lankford, and Sasse.

“The Democrat-led House of Representatives is out of town.

“They have had time to issue partisan attacks from long distance, but have yet to take up any police reform legislation in the weeks since the deaths of Ms. Taylor and Mr. Floyd.

“The action is in the Senate. The leadership is in the Senate.

“Now, over the past several days, some of our Senate Democratic colleagues have undertaken to attack this new legislation before they had even read it.

“Before it was even released. While it was still being compiled, as a matter of fact.

“Senate Republicans want to make a law. We want to enact needed reforms. We want to make policing in America better.

“We’ve just demonstrated on the CARES Act, and once again, on the Great American Outdoors Act, that we can act together and achieve bipartisan support. This is another one of those issues that needs to be addressed, needs to be addressed now, and can only be addressed in the Senate if both sides are willing to work together.

“Needless to say, if we are going to make law on this issue in the United States Senate, it will have to be a bipartisan effort. I hope and expect there would be opportunities for amendments from both sides.

“So I hope we can step up, stand together, and work in good faith to turn this impressive starting point into law for our country. We will have the chance next week. Let’s not waste it.”

Related Issues: Law Enforcement, Senate Democrats