Senate Republicans Introduce Policing Bill

Protests around the country continue.

Calls for justice continue.

Cities and States are immediately responding with police reforms in their communities.

Congressional Democrats introduced H.R. 7120, The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act requiring comprehensive reforms for police practices.

Congressional Republicans have been working on their response.

House Minority Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said there are some compromises that can be reached on policing reforms.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said publicly last week that police reforms are needed and necessary.

Senate Republicans have looked to Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African American Republican Senator, to take the lead in drafting their response to the Democrats’ bill.

In a Senate Republican Press Conference earlier today, Senator Tim Scott announced the introduction of The JUSTICE Act. Video of the full press conference: C-Span Video

Senators in the Police Reform Working Group, listed below, made remarks about the murder of George Floyd and the national events that have occurred over the past few weeks:

  • Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  • Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), and
  • Senator James Lankford (R-OK)

Senator Scott’s press release about the bill includes the bill text, section-by-section summary. Senator Scott’s press release outlines four areas of focus:

Law Enforcement Reform

  • The JUSTICE Act strengthens the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds.
  • Additionally, the bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve.
  • The JUSTICE Act also ensures when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records.
  • Too often, after a tragic incident, we have learned the offending officer had a disciplinary past in another jurisdiction of which their current employer was unaware.

Accountability

  • Studies show that when body cameras are properly used violent encounters decrease significantly.
  • The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly.
  • JUSTICE also requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers.

Transparency

  • Currently, only about 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force.
  • The bill will require full reporting in these two areas.
  • There is also very little data as to when, where and why no knock warrants are used, and the JUSTICE Act will require reporting in this area as well.

Additional Steps

  • The JUSTICE Act will finally make lynching a federal crime.
  • It also creates two commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing black men and boys, and the criminal justice system as a whole.

During this morning’s press conference, Leader McConnell said this bill will be on the Senate floor as soon as next week, once the Senate clears the Great Outdoors Act and two pending judicial nominations.

Leader McConnell remarks during the press conference:

Well, thank you, Tim. Even before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Senator Scott has made it possible for those of us in the Senate Republican Conference who are not African-American to understand that this problem still exists. We learned about his being stopped on numerous occasions well before the events of this year, but the witnessing of the murder of George Floyd and the experience in my hometown of Breonna Taylor brings to the forefront this issue in front of the Senate Republicans. My role as the leader is to decide what we’re going to do. Floor time is the coin of the realm in the Senate because it does take a while to do almost anything. So what I’m announcing today is after we do two Circuit Judges who are queued up early this week or next week we’ll return to the Scott bill. I’m going to file cloture on the motion to proceed and if the democratic friends if they want to make a law and not just make a point, I hope they’ll join us in getting on the bill and trying to move forward in the way the Senate does move forward when it’s trying to actually get an outcome, rather just sparring back and forth which you all have seen on frequent occasions by both sides. Also, I want to thank the whole team behind us. Everybody has contributed significantly to this product, but without Tim’s leadership it would not have been possible and without his leadership, I wouldn’t be putting this on the floor. But I want you to know that we’re serious about making a law here. This is not about trying to create partisan differences. This is about coming together and getting an outcome. We showed we could do that on the CARES Act. We have shown it on the Great American Outdoors Act, and we need to show it on the Scott bill.”

Majority Leader McConnell’s press release on The JUSTICE Act.

Leader McConnell’s remarks on the Senate Floor about The JUSTICE Act.

The JUSTICE Act has been endorsed by Major County Sheriffs, Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, The National Sheriffs Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

President Trump continues his “law and order” platform condemning the protests. The JUSTICE Act follows an Executive Order encouraging modified police practices. President Trump said he would support Senator Scott’s bill.

Democrats criticized The JUSTICE Act as insufficient to meet this moment and inadequate to actually fix the problems.

Now that Leader McConnell has set the timeline for floor consideration, the question is whether the House and Senate will reach a compromise on their respective versions or whether each will insist their bill is the right response creating a legislative stalemate.

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