Senate Democrats will block the Republican Party’s police reform bill, launching a review effort

The Democrats’ measure limits the weeks of calls by both parties to quickly advance police reform amid protests and civil unrest across the country after high-profile episodes of police use of deadly force that sparked a national backlash. But efforts to find common ground have largely turned into bitter, partisan cues, underscoring how deep partisan division can result in a stalemate on the issue on Capitol Hill.

Democrats made clear Tuesday that they plan to deny Senate Republicans the 60 votes necessary for a procedural vote to begin debate on the bill, which was led by Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator. If the vote fails, as expected, lawmakers will not be able to open the debate, offer amendments, or move to a final vote on approval.

“The Republican bill, as it stands, will not get 60 votes. There is overwhelming opposition to the bill in our committee,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday, adding: “The Republican majority gave the Senate a bad bill and proposed there is no credible way to improve it enough. ”

Scott, the main sponsor of the legislation, said Tuesday that he is unsure if there is a path to police reform this year if Democrats block his bill.

“What happens if it fails? That’s a question I really can’t answer right now,” he said.

Tim Scott says Democratic senator's warning against 'symbolic' approach to police reform 'hurts my soul'

An assistant to Scott told CNN that on Tuesday at the Republican Senate party lunch, the senator played hateful and racist voice messages for his Republican colleagues that his office has received in recent days. A Republican senator suggested that he increase his own personal safety.

Scott told The New York Times that hate and racism messages have become more intense in recent days.

“It is interesting that we are on the right side of the conversation about police reform, however, according to the people, we are on the wrong side, depending on how we characterize ourselves in the national press,” Scott told the Times.

Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to vote on a police proposal drafted by Democrats in their house on Thursday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said last week that she hoped to bring Democratic legislation to the conference with the proposal of the Senate GOP to reconcile the differences.

But the possibility that the two sides find enough common ground to enact a reform measure now seems increasingly remote.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, Schumer wrote that the Republican bill “is not salvageable” and that Democrats are demanding bipartisan negotiation before a floor vote.

Two top Republican leaders, Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Roy Blunt of Missouri, suggested Tuesday that if Democrats filibuster Scott’s police reform bill, he will almost certainly be dead by the year.

“There is probably no way forward in this Congress if they block the debate tomorrow,” Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership, told reporters on Tuesday.

Cornyn said he doesn’t think there will be bipartisan talks if the bill falls on Wednesday.

“I mean, why would we want to do this behind closed doors? Why can’t we do this on the Senate floor where everyone in the world can see?” I ask.

Republicans are already chasing Democrats ahead of Wednesday’s procedural vote, a sign of partisan discord around the debate on the issue.

Cornyn said the Democratic opposition to starting the debate on a police reform bill is “completely insane” and said he is not interested in negotiating with “kidnappers.”

“It is completely insane,” Cornyn told reporters moments after Senate Democrats said they would block the bill in a procedural vote on Wednesday unless Republicans reach an agreement with them to allow votes on the amendments to change the bill.

Cornyn argued that Democrats should vote to allow the debate to begin and allow each party to offer amendments, and that Democrats could block the final vote if they were not satisfied with the composition of the bill at the time.

“It is a pointless obstruction,” he said. “It is the worst I have ever seen.”

Democrats have also used strong language to criticize the Republican Party proposal.

“Tim Scott’s bill is a mediocre bill that doesn’t do what we should be doing, which is honest police reform,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, said earlier this week.

Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal explained his party’s concerns with the Republican bill on Tuesday, saying: “The Republican bill is really disastrously weak, it betrays the demands for justice and change that I have seen, day after day. day in Connecticut, “he said. .

While there is some overlap between the Republican Party and the Democratic proposals, there are also key differences in the proposals that have created trouble spots.

The Republican plan has a strong emphasis on incentivizing states to take action, while the Democratic plan focuses on setting national standards, such as mandates for federal uniformed officers to use body cameras and ban bottlenecks.

The Republican proposal doesn’t include a total ban on chokes, but Scott argued earlier this week “we’re getting too close to that place” by blocking federal grant funds to departments that don’t ban chokes.

Another important point between Democrats and Republicans is whether to review qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier to sue them in civil court. The House Democratic bill revises the standard, while Scott’s Republican bill does not.