Minority caucuses call for quick action on police reform

Minority caucuses call for quick action on police reform
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The heads of the House minority caucuses called Wednesday for quick congressional action on police reform, amid nationwide protests over police violence.

A series of different measures on police reform are under consideration by House Democrats, who say they could use the recently-enacted proxy voting powers to push through a bill without violating coronavirus social distancing guidelines.

The push for legislation comes as protests over the death of George Floyd under police custody convulse the country. 

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"We need to get this legislation passed, [the protesters] have to see that we are doing something," said Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Lawmakers of color blast Trump administration for reportedly instructing agencies to end anti-bias training MORE (D-Calif.), the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

"The kind of energy we are seeing now will have to be there when the bills go to the Senate," she added.

Chu was joined by Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police Outrage erupts over Breonna Taylor grand jury ruling MORE (D-Calif.), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), CBC member Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeEnding the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner Overnight Defense: Nearly 500 former national security officials formally back Biden | 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE (D-Calif.), and Reps. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium MORE (D-N.M.) and Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsTrump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report Races heat up for House leadership posts GOP leader says he doesn't want Chamber's endorsement: 'They have sold out' MORE (D-Kan.), the first two Native American women ever elected to the House.

Together, the CBC, CHC and CAPAC are known as the Tri-Caucus and are sometimes referred to as the Quad-Caucus when coordinating with the two Native American Democrats.

Minority lawmakers especially want to prioritize a resolution led by Reps. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyEnding the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE (D-Mass.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar urges Democrats to focus on nonvoters over 'disaffected Trump voters' Omar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE (D-Minn.), Lee, and Bass.

The resolution would offer an official condemnation on acts of police brutality, while calling for independent oversight boards and a push for the Department of Justice to reassert its authority to investigate individual cases of racial profiling.

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Bass told reporters in a video press conference that the resolution would be enforceable because Congress could condition funding for different programs on fulfillment of the resolution's conditions.

"Frankly if it was not enforced we would be wasting our time," said Bass.

But Bass shot down the idea to defund police departments, an idea that's been circulating on the left as a quick way to force police reform.

The lawmakers urged quick action – Bass said the House should act before the end of June – to avoid the pitfalls that usually befall police reform legislation, particularly in the Senate.

"It would be irresponsible for us to wait, we need to vote on these bills as soon as they are ready," said Bass.

Bass added that the "momentum and public pressure" are on the side of those who want police reform now, but warned against letting the moment pass.

Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTexas Democratic official urges Biden to visit state: 'I thought he had his own plane' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements A game theorist's advice to President Trump on filling the Supreme Court seat MORE (D-Calif.) laid out a framework Monday of what they believe a police reform bill should look like.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE (R-Ky.) said Wednesday "there may be a role" for lawmakers in addressing the calls for action on police violence, but Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection MORE (R-Okla.) and John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (R-Texas) rejected the idea of quick congressional action.

But Bass said she's hopeful the resolution might garner some Republican support, given the degree of public outrage in the wake of Floyd's death after Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the unarmed man's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Chauvin, and three other officers present at the scene, were fired, and the charge against Chauvin was upgraded to second-degree murder Wednesday while his colleagues were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Bass said the political and social momentum backed by national protests could overcome opposition to reform from police unions.

The politically powerful unions have historically opposed expanding oversight of police action.

But policing has become a top issue for Tri-Caucus members, who comprise more than half of the House Democratic Caucus.

And the sheer number of cases of police violence caught on video has moved the needle toward more generalized public support of police reform, said Castro.

Before ubiquitous smartphones and social media, said Castro, "it was a matter of, 'who are you going to believe, police or person on the verge of being arrested?'"

"In 1991 we got a taste of what we see now with the happenstance recording of what happened to Rodney King," he added.

Until the killing of Floyd, Castro argued, police challenged public videos with "different interpretive reasons for why they're still using excessive force."

"This video moved us beyond issues of interpretation," said Castro.