The house approves the police review plan as the partial passage deepens

Protesters protest in DC against the death of George Floyd by police officer in Minneapolis

Photo credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

The House of Representatives approved a broad review of police rules on Thursday in a vote close to the party line with little expectation that it will break a partisan stalemate that would put any Senate plan on hold.

The legislation, named the George Floyd Police Justice Act by the African-American man who died a month ago at the hands of the Minneapolis police, passed 236-181. Three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting on the measure.

The bill’s author, Karen Bass, president of the Black Caucus in Congress, said the legislation “would transform surveillance in the United States.”

“We are supposed to be the beacon of hope for human rights in other countries, and the Police Justice Act is a bill for human rights in our country, “Bass, a California Democrat, said before the vote.

The Democratic bill, HR7120, was rejected by the White House. President Donald Trump accused Democrats of wanting to “weaken the police” in part because it would make it easier for police officers to be sued in brutality cases. Republican leaders in the House had urged members to vote against.

The House action came a day after a less stringent police plan put forth by Senate Republicans was blocked by Democrats who said it was inappropriate to address police brutality in response to mass protests across the United States.

While the Democrats resisted hope that going through the House would force negotiations, some key Republicans said it is likely to be a dead issue in the Senate.

“It appears to be,” said Senate Judiciary President Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. “It’s a shame, but we are where we are.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, author of the Republican plan, said the momentum behind the legislation “is dissipating as we speak.”

Democrats “are playing a dangerous political game that they can afford to wait until November or next year,” said Scott, the only black Republican in the house. “They may be right, but it is a dangerous game.”

Democrats count on continued street protests and increased public support for the Black Lives Matter movement to put pressure on Senate Republicans.

A New York Times / Siena College poll released Wednesday found that by a margin of 59% to 30%, respondents think Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month is part of a pattern of police violence, and that 57 % supports the protests. The survey was conducted from June 17 to 22 through telephone calls in English and Spanish to 1,337 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points.

Senate Democrats said Scott’s measure lacked sufficient enforcement measures to hold rogue police officers to account and did not do enough to eliminate deadly practices such as strangling arrests and no-hit orders used to enter to homes in drug cases.

Republicans said they would have allowed floor amendments on those issues, and would-be Democrats would rather have surveillance as an issue for the election year than find a compromise.

“Our Democratic colleagues tried to say frankly that they want the Senate to discuss police reform, while they blocked the Senate from discussing police reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell has scheduled the Senate to debate the next annual national defense policy bill, before a two-week recess on July 4. The Senate expects to debate an economic stimulus plan after July 20.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “The debate on police reform has only ended for those who want it to end.” The New York Democrat added: “And maybe for those who never really wanted this debate in the first place.”

Bass said in an interview that he plans to speak to Scott, the Republican sponsor of the Senate bill, and sees a basis for compromise as the pressure continues.

“I don’t see that this situation has ended at all,” he said. “ME hope people protest every day. “

New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker, one of the two black Democrats in the Senate and sponsor of his party’s version of legislation, said activism “will push this Congress to catch until history.”

‘Qualified immunity’

The largest areas of disagreement center on Republican Party opposition to Democratic efforts to end the “qualified immunity” that protects individual officers from lawsuits, lowering the “guilty mind” standard necessary to criminally prosecute police; create a national database of complaints against officers, end orders not to touch on drug cases, and prevent military hardware from being turned over to local police.

Republicans argue that changes in the lawsuits would cause the police to hesitate in emergency situations, which could cost them their lives.

Lower standards in police lawsuits or prosecutions would mean that “an officer will not only risk his life every time he works a shift, but he will risk his home, his possessions and the sanctity of his family,” wrote Andy Biggs, president of the House Freedom Chamber, Andy of Arizona, in an opinion essay by the Washington Examiner, “It also means that it will be even more difficult to recruit and retain officers.”

Republicans say banning no-hit orders would be dangerous in some cases involving heavily armed drug traffickers, and that a database of complaints could include unsubstantiated allegations against the police.

The three House Republicans who voted for the measure were Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania, Will Hurd from Texas and Fred Upton from Michigan.