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Politics

Police Reform Stalemate

Democrats in the Senate are planning to block the JUSTICE ACT, the Senate GOP police reform bill, from heading to the floor today, causing a stalemate in the upper chamber and setting the stage for a political battle over crucial legislation. 

Here’s what you need to know: Senator Kamala Harris is pushing to pass The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a Democrat version of police reform.  As a sponsor, she is joined by Senator Cory Booker, and on the House side Representative Karen Bass and Representative Jerry Nadler. This bill was introduced on June 8th. 

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Tim Scott and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced their own version of a police reform bill.  But Democrats yesterday assured Republicans that their bill was a “non-starter.”

Why this matters: In the Senate, you need 60 senators to vote yes for a procedural votes to move legislation to debate and allow amendments, before, of course, heading to the floor for a vote.  Then, the bill would head to the House.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate GOP offered the Democrats a “bad bill,” and there would be “no way to improve it.”

The controversy: Americans are often frustrated with the partisanship in Washington.  Lawmakers have been scrambling to pass meaningful police reform legislation following weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd.  Senator Tim Scott, the lone African-American senator, wrote the bill with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and has been pointing out the party politics at play. In a heartfelt message from the senate floor on Tuesday, he noted the similarities between the two bills, and told his colleagues that the GOP version goes further in banning chokeholds than the Democrat’s.  Today, Senator Tim Scott voiced his frustration, stating, “You’ll go on MSNBC or CNN and we’ll go on FOX and everybody have their chatter, and more people in communities of color will have less confidence in the institutions of power and authority in this nation because we missed the moment. We missed it five years ago.  We don’t have to miss it now.”

Senator Scott is joined by his Republican colleagues in urging Democrats to allow the bill to be open to debate, to let it be public, and let the nation watch as lawmakers put forward their ideas in how to find common ground to pass meaningful legislation. If this bill fails to move to the Senate floor, Senator Blunt said there is “no path forward.”

To think about: In a crucial election year, both parties are worried about the 2020 election.  For a very hot political issue, politicians will be aware of how they vote, and what that will mean for their campaigns. 

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