Democrats signal they will block Senate GOP plan on police reform they call too weak

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats indicated Tuesday that they will block the current version of a GOP policing reform bill, calling it “woefully inadequate” to meet the broad changes needed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis and cases of excessive force and discriminatory treatment.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to bring the GOP-backed Justice Act, sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, up for consideration. It would require 60 votes to advance, meaning Republicans — who hold 53 seats — need some Democratic votes.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey will send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later Tuesday arguing for bipartisan negotiations on the bill before it comes to the Senate floor.

“This is a serious challenge requiring serious solutions,” the three senators wrote to McConnell, R-Ky., in the letter, provided to the Los Angeles Times in advance of its release. “Bringing the Justice Act to the floor of the Senate is a woefully inadequate response, and we urge you to bring meaningful legislation to the floor for a vote.”

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Schumer called Scott’s bill a “partisan bill that’s designed to make sure no bill passes.”

Democrats have complained that they weren’t consulted in the drafting of the bill, which focuses heavily on collecting information about police use of force and creates a commission to study societal issues facing Black men and boys. They also noted that it is being moved without any hearings.

Republicans point to similarities between their bill and one that the House is scheduled to vote on Thursday, and say that Democrats can offer amendments during floor consideration.

“We’re ready to work with Democrats on police reform. I hope they’re finally willing to come to the table,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “A successful vote to proceed on the Justice Act speaks volumes. A vote against shows the American people that politics are more important than the people, talking points more important than change, and gridlock more important than solutions.”

It is unlikely that meaningful changes would be made to the legislation once it got to the Senate floor, where the majority could act without support from the minority party. Once the 60-vote threshold is met to move legislation in the Senate, it only takes a majority to approve or reject an amendment.

Booker called the Republican bill “wholly unacceptable to bring accountability, transparency, consequences when our common values as a nation are violated.”

“The American people are not in the streets (saying), ‘We want more data, we want more data!’ The American people are not the streets (saying), ‘Give us a commission, give us a commission!’” he said.


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