Will Senate Democrats Shut Down Policing Reform?

After Spending Weeks Demanding The Senate Take Up A Police Reform Bill Before July 4th, Senate Democrats Have Announced They’ll Block The Senate From Taking Up The Bill, Despite House Democrats Being Open To Compromise


“Democrats will block a Republican policing reform bill in the Senate …” (“Democrats to Block Senate Republican Bill on Police Practices,” Bloomberg News, 6/23/2020)

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), JUSTICE Act Sponsor: “If you want a process, where you have an opportunity to persuade those in this body, and the American people, about the value of your amendments, this motion to proceed is a motion you should vote for…. [I]f you really want to get into police reform, we need a vehicle to get there. The JUSTICE Act is that vehicle…. [T]his body has a chance to say … ‘We see you. We hear your concerns.’ And a motion to proceed is simply a procedural motion that simply says let’s debate the underlying bill. Let’s have a conversation, in front of all of the American people, about the importance of doing police reform the right way…. But if we miss that golden opportunity, if we miss the opportunity to debate the underlying issues, all you wind up with is talking points and campaigns.” (Sen. Scott, Floor Remarks, 6/23/2020)

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “The American people expect us to do our jobs, discuss, debate, and legislate on this subject that has captured the nation’s attention. Discussion. Debate. Votes on amendments. Tomorrow, we’ll find out whether even these modest steps are a bridge too far for our colleagues on the Democratic side. Earlier this month, Senate Democrats were telling everyone who would listen that we’d be derelict in our duty if we did not have police reform legislation on the floor of the Senate this month. But then, as soon as the junior Senator for South Carolina actually published something concrete, their tune has changed rather sharply. And now, suddenly, our Democratic colleagues are reportedly agonizing and debating whether to let the Senate have this discussion at all or whether to kill any chance of reform legislation before it can even taxi onto the runway. The American people deserve better than a partisan stalemate. The American people deserve for the Senate to take up this issue at this time. Senate Republicans want to have this discussion. We are ready to make a law, not just make a point.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/23/2020)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): “… hostage takers, that’s what this is, they’re taking this bipartisan--at least 80% of the bill--as a hostage.” (NBC’s Frank Thorp, @frankthorp, Twitter, 6/23/2020)


‘The Truth Is, The GOP Bill Is More Likely To Stop Cops From Killing Black People’

THE ROOT’S MICHAEL HARRIOT: “[Sen. Tim] Scott announced the Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act of 2020 or the ‘JUSTICE Act’ … The bill would enforce its provisions by reducing federal grant money that is already available to state and local law enforcement agencies. Scott wants to prevent departments who don’t comply with the law from continuing to receive these funds.” (Michael Harriot, The Root, 6/19/2020)

  • “The JUSTICE Act also provides a better mechanism for holding individual local and state agencies accountable, by micro-targeting localities that don’t implement police reform with increasingly harsher penalties … Without the punishment of the law, a higher financial penalty for agencies that do not comply with reform regulations is the only tool available to Congress for enforcing reform.” (Michael Harriot, The Root, 6/19/2020)
  • “[W]hile news outlets have described Scott’s plan as ‘narrower,’ his proposal’s penalties eventually reach 20 percent while the Democrats withhold 10 percent. The Democrats’ bill only outlaws chokeholds for federal officers.” (Michael Harriot, The Root, 6/19/2020)

HARRIOT: “As someone who is not a huge fan of the Republican Party … it might pain some to hear this as much as it pains me to say it, but the truth is, the GOP bill is more likely to stop cops from killing black people.” (Michael Harriot, The Root, 6/19/2020)


House Democrat Leaders Were Willing To Hold A Conference Committee To Find A Bipartisan Compromise

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said late last week she would like to see both the House and Senate pass their respective bills.” (“Democrats Face Make-Or-Break Moment On Police Reform,” The Hill, 6/23/2020)

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), Congressional Black Caucus Chair: “I absolutely want to negotiate. I would love for us to get to a point of going to conference.” (MSNBC, 6/23/2020)


But Senate Democrats Seem Poised To Foreclose Even That Possibility

“The Democrats’ letter also appears to rule out the possibility of going to conference with the House with a version of Scott’s bill, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi said was doable … But in Senate Democrats’ view they can’t support even sending Scott’s bill to conference.” (“Harris, Booker And Schumer Say GOP Police Plan Is ‘Not Salvageable,’” Politico, 6/23/2020)


Senate Democrats’ Actions Are Unsurprising Because They Were Attacking Sen. Scott’s Bill Before They Even Read It

“Senate Democrats are voicing deep skepticism toward the GOP’s newfound embrace of police reform.” (“Democrats Stiff-Arm GOP’s ‘Cosmetic’ Police Reforms,” Politico, 6/11/2020)

“Democrats Slam GOP Police Reform Bill Before Laying Eyes On It” (The Washington Free Beacon, 6/15/2020)

“Senate Democrats rip GOP police reform bill even before plan unveiled” (Fox News, 6/16/2020)

“Democrats slam GOP police overhaul bill before its unveiling” (The Washington Times, 6/16/2020)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “After House and Senate Democrats released the draft legislation on Monday, yesterday, Senate Republicans announced they would put together ‘a working group’ to prepare their own set of proposals. Working groups are all fine and well, but it is critical that we pursue comprehensive reform, not seek the lowest common denominator, and it is critical that we get a real commitment to consider strong legislation on the floor.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.2841, 6/10/2020)

  • SCHUMER: “We need wholesale reform, not piecemeal reform. We cannot approach this debate by cherry-picking one or two reforms and calling the job complete. It is my worry that is what our Republican colleagues intend to do.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.2841, 6/10/2020)
  • SCHUMER: The moment does not call for cherry-picking one or two things to do; it calls for bold, broad change--whole-scale reform, not piecemeal reform. I know the inclination of some of my [Republican] Senate colleagues would be to cherry-pick a few small improvements and say the job is done. It will not be. We need to start--start--with the Justice in Policing Act …” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S2902, 6/11/2020)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): “Just saying we’ve done something is not enough. We have to take this moment in history and make a significant change…. Just doing some kind of symbolic effort is not enough.” (“Democrats Stiff-Arm GOP’s ‘Cosmetic’ Police Reforms,” Politico, 6/11/2020)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): “This Republican proposal is heavy on gestures and light on meaningful reforms that will root out the systemic injustices that are baked into our justice system and policing practices…. If we’re serious about confronting police brutality and excessive use of force, this bill is not the solution.” (“Democrats Stiff-Arm GOP’s ‘Cosmetic’ Police Reforms,” Politico, 6/11/2020)

  • BOOKER: “This is not a time for lowest common denominator, watered-down reforms. … So, do I want progress? Yes. But when -- when we stop short and start talking about finding a bill that’s the lowest common denominator, it is meaning that we will revisit this again when another unarmed black person gets killed, and the nation erupts.” (CBS’ “Face the Nation,” 6/14/2020)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): “It’s so far from being relevant to really the crisis at hand and what we need to do to solve the problems that are obvious.” (“Skepticism Looms Over Police Reform Deal,” The Hill, 6/15/2020)

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): “I don’t think they’re [Republicans] going to propose anything that comes anywhere near enough to what we need to do. We need systemic change…. If they propose systemic change then I’m fully supportive of it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more cosmetic.” (“Democrats Stiff-Arm GOP’s ‘Cosmetic’ Police Reforms,” Politico, 6/11/2020)

  • DUCKWORTH: “I will wait to see what Senator Scott’s bill does. But I suspect it is all going to be window dressing when what we need right now is systemic change.” (MSNBC Live, 6/13/2020)

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): “… we have to be mentally prepared for this to be whittled down to a blue ribbon commission. I hope I’m wrong, but we cannot allow Republicans to get the benefit of feinting towards real action and then doing nothing.” (Sen. Schatz, @brianschatz, Twitter, 6/14/2020)


Earlier This Month, Sen. Schumer Repeatedly Demanded, ‘Put A Law Enforcement Reform Bill On The Floor By July 4th

SCHUMER: “At this delicate time, the Senate should lead on these issues rather than aggravate the problem. Leader McConnell should commit to put a law enforcement reform bill on the floor of the Senate before July 4th.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 6/1/2020)

SCHUMER: “What matters is that we respond to the national wave of unrest with action. I am repeating my call to Leader McConnell. Leader McConnell: commit to putting law enforcement reform legislation on the floor before July 4th. A divided nation cannot wait. For healing. For solutions.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 6/2/2020)

SCHUMER: “Once again, I am calling on Senator McConnell to commit to putting law-enforcement reform legislation on the floor before July 4. … And I’ve called on McConnell to bring something to the legislature, bring something to the Senate floor on criminal justice in June.” (Sen. Schumer, Press Conference, 6/2/2020)

SCHUMER: “Will our Republican colleagues join us? Leader McConnell: commit to put a law enforcement reform bill on the floor of the Senate before July 4th.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 6/3/2020)

SCHUMER: “We Democrats are going to push very hard on both fronts. Law enforcement, I asked Leader McConnell to put a law enforcement reform bill on the floor by July 4th ...” (MSNBC, 6/5/2020)

SCHUMER: “Now is the time for Leader McConnell to commit to putting police reform on the floor of the Senate before July 4th to be debated and voted on. … There are four weeks remaining before July 4th. The time for waiting is gone. Leader McConnell, Senate Republicans: commit to putting a police reform bill on the Senate floor for a debate and a vote.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 6/8/2020)

SCHUMER: “There are still four weeks remaining before July 4th. I say to Leader McConnell: commit to a police reform bill on the Senate floor and work with us on another emergency package that can come to the floor as well, before July 4th. We have waited too long already.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 6/9/2020)

SCHUMER: “[W]e need a hard-and-fast commitment from the Republican Leader to put real, broad-scale police reform on the Senate floor before July 4th.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 6/10/2020)



Related Issues: Law Enforcement, Senate Democrats