The House of Representatives passed a police reform bill named in honor of George Floyd, whose death in police custody has sparked nationwide calls to address police misconduct and racial injustice and prompted weeks of protests and civil unrest.
The bill passed largely along party lines amid Republican opposition with a final tally of 236-181. Three Republicans crossed party lines in favor of the bill including Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Will Hurd (TX) and Fred Upton (MI).
The legislation – titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 – was drafted by the Congressional Black Caucus. Its passage comes after Democrats blocked a less-sweeping Republican policing proposal in the Senate headed up by the only Black Republican senator, Tim Scott (SC).
Despite agreement between the parties that action to address police misconduct is sorely needed, each thwarts the efforts of its opposing party and stalls progress for meaningful change. In a Fox interview on Thursday, Scott accused Democrats of playing “race politics,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday refused to apologize for accusing Republicans in the Senate for “trying to get away with murder” in their policing proposal.
The House package bans chokeholds at the federal level as a civil rights violation and also puts a ban on no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. The Democrats’ bill takes on racial profiling among law enforcement which has been a common theme in recent racial justice protests against police violence. The bill has the teeth to upend qualified immunity for law enforcement and would form a national registry of police misconduct maintained by the Department of Justice.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Pelosi told reporters at a press conference that the bill was a pledge to honor the life of George Floyd and all of those killed by police brutality. “Never again,” Pelosi said.
“When we pass this bill, the Senate will have a choice: to honor George Floyd’s life or to do nothing,” Pelosi added.
Last week, Pelosi expressed her hopes of bringing Democrats’ legislation to conference with the Senate Republicans’ alternative. The chances for the passage of wider police reforms remain uncertain however, after Democrats knocked down the GOP proposal on Wednesday. In advance of any moves to conference Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) preemptively knocked the House’s plan, saying the Democrats’ Floyd bill was an overreach that would sink in the Senate.
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