The Real Reason Why Senate Democrats Blocked Debate on Police Reform

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats blocked debate on the JUSTICE Act, the police reform bill sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Just last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had demanded that Senate Republicans submit a police reform bill by July 4. Yet this week, Schumer said the JUSTICE Act was “unsalvageable” and that it would not even form a good starting point for debate on the issue.

This afternoon, Democrats filibustered the measure, preventing any debate on the bill.

Senate Democrats pre-emptively blasted the bill before Republicans had finished drafting it. Minutes after Scott, a black Republican senator, revealed the bill, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called it a “token” effort.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went so far as accusing Republicans of “trying to get away with murder, the murder of George Floyd,” because the JUSTICE Act’s provisions against chokeholds did not go far enough, in her view. She doubled down on that heinous accusation on Wednesday.

In the past few months, Democrats have engaged in this kind of maneuvering in order to push wish-list items in coronavirus relief bills, attempting to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis. Yet when it comes to the JUSTICE Act, the Republican and Democratic bills are substantially similar.

Indeed, as Townhall’s Guy Benson reported, Scott’s bill explicitly included a provision Pelosi herself has championed — a proposal to study the social status of black men and boys in American society.

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Among other things, the JUSTICE Act creates a federal system to track police shootings, requires police departments to report no-knock warrants such as the horrific incident in which police officers shot Breonna Taylor, institutes a grant program to help police departments gain access to more body cameras, requires police training on alternatives to the use of force and de-escalation, makes lynching a federal crime, and reforms law enforcement hiring and education. The act also creates economic incentives for local police departments to ban chokeholds.

This legislation is substantially similar to the House Democrats’ bill, the Justice in Policing Act. That act would also make lynching a federal crime, mandate that state and local law enforcement report their use-of-force data, require police to wear body cameras, reform police training, create a Department of Justice task force to investigate police misconduct, and more. The Democrats’ bill does go further than the Republican version in a few ways: it outright bans chokeholds and no-knock raids, rather than incentivizing police departments to ban them; it prohibits “racial, religious and discriminatory profiling”; and it eliminates qualified immunity for law enforcement.

The Democratic bill is more radical, but it is egregious hyperbole for Democrats to say the substantially similar Republican version is “unsalvageable.” Pelosi’s accusation that Republicans like Tim Scott are “trying to get away with … the murder of George Floyd” is particularly despicable.

Democrats did not just reject the Republican bill, they refused to even debate on it. This seems rather perplexing considering how similar the two bills are.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) explained what the Democrats are really up to.

“For weeks, the Democratic leader blustered that the Senate simply had to address this issue before July 4th. Last week, Speaker Pelosi said, ‘I hope there’s a compromise to be reached in the Congress.’ Because, quote, ‘How many more people have to die from police brutality?'” McConnell noted.

“So as recently as last week, leading Democrats called it a life-or-death issue for the Senate to take up this subject this month. Well, here we are. Ready to address it. But now, in the last 48 hours, this bizarre new ultimatum. Now they don’t want to take up the issue. They don’t want debate. They don’t want amendments. They’ll filibuster police reform from even reaching the floor of the Senate unless the majority lets the minority rewrite the bill behind closed doors and in advance,” the Republican leader noted.

“Yesterday, the Speaker of the House told CBS News that because Senate Republicans do support Senator Tim Scott’s reform bill, we are, quote, ‘trying to get away with murder… the murder of George Floyd.’ Are you beginning to see how this game works? Two weeks ago, it was implied the Senate would have blood on our hands if we didn’t take up police reform. Now, Democrats say Senator Scott and 48 other Senators have blood on our hands because we are trying to take up police reform,” the majority leader explained.

Tim Scott put it succinctly: “They cannot allow this party to be seen as a party that reaches out to all communities in this nation.”

Pelosi Accuses Republicans of ‘Trying to Get Away With … the Murder of George Floyd’

Democrats are fighting tooth and nail against a police reform bill that includes a great deal of what they actually want merely because Republicans support it. It seems they are willing to sacrifice concrete reform in order to portray the Republicans and President Donald Trump as anti-reform. They think their shenanigans will work because, as Tim Scott put it, the media will spin their obstructionism into a pro-Democratic story.

Americans need to pay attention to what Pelosi and her fellow Democrats are doing here. They accuse Republicans of having blood on their hands if they don’t support police reform, and then they accuse Republicans of “trying to get away with … the murder of George Floyd” when they do put forth a police reform package that includes much of what the Democrats want. They do all this in the hopes that blocking police reform will enable them to defame the Republicans and Trump as somehow anti-police reform — when they themselves are blocking the legislation!

Democrats cannot stomach the idea that a Republican police reform bill could pass Congress and become law thanks to the signature of President Donald J. Trump. That’s what this is all about. They care more about political games and getting rid of Trump than they do about achieving concrete police reform.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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