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What's the status of police reform in Congress?
Do you support Congress reaching a bipartisan compromise on police reform?
By Eric Revell, Countable News
What’s the latest?
- Both chambers of Congress are set to consider police reform legislation this week, with the Senate considering a Republican proposal and the House set to vote on a Democratic bill. There are considerable similarities between the two bills, but also some stark differences.
- While it’s unclear at this time whether lawmakers will be able to reach a compromise, it’s certain that bipartisan support and the backing of President Donald Trump will be necessary for the police reform push to succeed & a bill to be enacted.
What’s the outlook for the bills entering the week?
- In its current form, Senate Republicans’ JUSTICE Act (S. 3985) is unlikely to gain the bipartisan support needed to become law, but GOP senators have said they’re willing to allow amendments & open debate once the Senate votes to formally begin debate on the bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said:
“And our Democratic friends, if they want to make a law, and not just try to make a point, I’ll 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 than just sparring back and forth, which you all have seen on frequent occasions by both sides.”
- Democratic senators are divided on the issue of agreeing to have a debate on the bill. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the JUSTICE Act is a “bad bill” but that his caucus is “figuring out what to do with it.” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) ― one of the most moderate Democrats in the Senate ― told Politico, “I would like to think that we would all be inclined to start this debate.” On the other hand, the more progressive Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said that “I want to work with people that want real police reform unlike the people that want to just act like they’re doing reform.”
- The procedural vote in question, on what’s known as a cloture motion, requires 60 votes to succeed, so all 53 Republicans and at least 7 Democrats would have to vote in favor.
- The JUSTICE Act’s lead author, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), said that if the bill fails at the initial vote then “folks will have less confidence in this nation because we missed a moment.” But if Democrats agree to start debate on the bill and amendment votes are scheduled, there’s a possibility that the Senate could reach a compromise.
- Several Republicans have expressed a preference for changes that would move the JUSTICE Act closer to the House Democrats’ bill: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is introducing legislation that would ban no-knock search warrants & Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) is drafting legislation to reform qualified immunity, both of which could be among the amendments considered. Any amendment votes would likely be subject to a 60 vote threshold.
- In its current form, Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) will easily pass the House, where only a simple majority is needed to pass. There are 431 representatives currently seated and only 216 votes are needed to pass the bill, but 230 Democrats have cosponsored the bill, which passed the Judiciary Committee last week on a party-line 24-14 vote.
- However, no Republicans in either chamber of Congress have expressed support for the Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act, and GOP senators have said it’s a “non-starter” and “going nowhere in the Senate” in its current form.
- If there is ultimately a bipartisan compromise, it’s likely that the House & Senate will have passed different versions of police reform legislation, and Congress will form a conference committee to resolve the differences before both chambers vote again. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters that we would “like to end up in conference” but that will depend on the course of action Schumer takes in the Senate.
When will the votes happen?
- In the Senate, the timing of the initial procedural vote ― on a cloture motion on the motion to proceed ― will depend on when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) files the cloture motion, which requires an intervening day to “ripen” before it can receive a vote, which requires 60 votes to succeed.
- So for example, if he files the cloture motion on Monday, the motion would spend Tuesday “ripening”, and a vote to invoke cloture (i.e. limit further debate to 30 hours) on the motion to proceed to the bill would occur Wednesday.
- If cloture is invoked successfully, there could be up to 30 hours of debate before a vote is held on the motion to proceed, which only requires a simple majority. But the Senate could grant unanimous consent to hold it sooner or pass the motion to proceed without a roll call vote.
- If the Senate can get past the first cloture motion and the motion to proceed, another cloture motion would have to be filed, ripen, and be successfully invoked with 60 “yeas” before votes on amendments or final passage could occur. All of which means that barring the Senate reaching a bipartisan deal to speed things up through a unanimous consent agreement, the Senate may not wrap up its work on the JUSTICE Act until the week of June 29th (if it gets that far).
- On the other side of the Capitol, the scheduling of the House’s vote is much more straightforward, and a vote on Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act will occur Thursday, June 25th.
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Andrei Stanescu)
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