House Democrats made good on their plans to respond to a national outcry for reform of the nation's law enforcement departments, with the chamber on Thursday approving wide-ranging efforts to overhaul the way police do their jobs.
The legislation's prospects, however, are short-circuited by a lack of bipartisan consensus on an ultimate plan. Democrats developed their bill without GOP input, leaving Republicans to push their own counterproposal in the Senate. Without any efforts to work on a bipartisan compromise the issue is likely stalled, potentially until after the fall election.
Nevertheless, Democrats said the moment marked a victory in the ongoing, national conversation raising alarms of misconduct, brutality and systemic racism in policing. The House approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by a vote of 236 to 181 one month to the day the bill's namesake was killed. Three Republicans supported the legislation.
U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood, the two Republicans who represent Bloomington-Normal, both voted against the bill. They instead support the competing Republican plan, introduced by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
“The only way we will enact police reform is if Republicans and Democrats come together, resolve our differences, and come to bipartisan agreement,” Davis said in a statement. “We can't let this moment pass us. We should be doing more at the federal level to help law enforcement do their jobs safely, while putting systems in place to ensure everyone is treated equitably.
LaHood, a former prosecutor, said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have “politicized this process.”
“While I do support some provisions in this bill, I can’t in good faith vote for legislation that eliminates qualified immunity for all law enforcement officials, bans no-knock warrants without consideration of exceptions, and limits access to resources for law enforcement departments,” LaHood said in a statement. “These are complex issues and federal legislation is only one piece of a large solution that will require efforts at the state and local levels. I believe we can find bipartisan solutions and Democrats should reach across the aisle so we can deliver the results many Americans are demanding.”
Democrats criticized Davis for his vote. Davis is expected to face a tough re-election fight in November against Democratic challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in the 13th District.
“Far too often in America, unarmed and innocent Black people are killed by police. We need accountability for officers who kill, and we need to change the culture of silence and complicity where officers protect their own rather than the public they serve. Once again, Congressman Davis has chosen his party in Washington over everyday Americans and turned his back on the demands for justice and reform by the American people," DCCC spokesperson Courtney Rice said in a statement.
The Democratic measure bans federal police from using chokeholds and other dangerous restraints, as well as no-knock warrants in drug-related cases. It also lowers legal standards to pursue criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct.
The Senate Republican proposal steered away from outright bans, and changes to the legal shield that protects police from punishment in certain misconduct cases. Instead, it focused on training for de-escalation tactics, new federal reporting requirements and incentives for the use of police body cameras.
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