US Congressional Democrats, powered by the Congressional Black Caucus, are preparing a sweeping package of police reforms as pressure builds on the federal government to respond to the death of George Floyd and others in law enforcement interactions.
With the urgency of mass protests outside their doors, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working furiously to draft what could become one of the most ambitious efforts in years to oversee the way law enforcement works. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both former presidential candidates, are expected to announce a package in coming days, with a House bill coming soon.
Both the Senate and House efforts are expected to include changes to police accountability laws, such as revising immunity provisions, and creating a database of police use-of-force incidents. Revamped training requirements are planned, too, among them a ban on the use of choke holds. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has endorsed such a ban.
“We have a moral moment in our country,” Rep. Karen Bass, Democrat of California, the chairwoman of the CBC, said on a conference call Wednesday.
The political stakes of any police reform effort are high, amplified in an election year by President Donald Trump’s “law and order” stance, including his threats to call in the U.S. military to clamp down on protesters. With mass unrest now entering a second week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to shift the national tone Wednesday by walking and talking with protesters outside the Capitol.
The House is expected to vote by month’s end. “We’ll be intense, proactive,” Pelosi said on MSNBC.
With Democrats in the majority, the bills will almost certainly pass the House. But the outcome in the Senate is less certain. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the chamber would take a look at the issues, but he has not endorsed any particular legislation.
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