Pelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday

Greg Nash

Democrats on Monday will introduce wide-ranging legislation designed to combat racial inequities in the criminal justice system, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday. 

The much awaited package, currently being crafted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), will feature provisions designed to eliminate racial profiling, rein in the excessive use of police force and repeal the so-called qualified immunity doctrine for law enforcers, which protects individual officers from lawsuits over actions they perform while on duty.

“We will not relent until that is secured — that justice is secured,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Yet the package will go far beyond that, Pelosi suggested.

Democratic leaders have sought input from rank-and-file members in recent days on whether the House should respond to the death of George Floyd in police custody by pushing a sweeping reform package or adopting a piecemeal approach.

Pelosi said Thursday that they’ve landed on the latter. 

Aside from the criminal justice elements of the Democrats’ legislation, Pelosi said the package would also include provisions designed to raise the status of African Americans outside of the criminal justice system as well. 

“It is about other injustices, too. It’s about health disparities, it’s about environmental injustice, it’s about economic injustice, it’s about educational injustice,” Pelosi said. “So we want to see this as a time where we can go forward in a very drastic way — not incrementally, but in an important way to redress those problems.” 

Pelosi did not reveal when Democrats intend to vote on the legislation — and a spokesman declined to say. But by introducing the proposal on Monday, they’re setting the stage for floor action well before the House is currently scheduled to return next to Washington, on June 30. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that Democratic leaders would call lawmakers back to the Capitol sooner if the CBC bill was ready for a vote. It is, he said, “a matter of great urgency.”

The legislation is the Democrats’ response to a number of recent deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of law enforcers or vigilantes.

The most recent took place in Minneapolis last week, when Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in the custody of city police officers. Floyd’s death, captured on video, has sparked protests across the country and beyond, as demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand an end to police brutality and its disproportionate effect on black people.

Pelosi had previously characterized Floyd’s death as “an execution,” and on Wednesday she joined protesters outside the Capitol as a show of support. On Thursday, she called Floyd’s death “an inflection point” in the country’s race relations. 

“It is a threshold that our country has crossed,” she said.

Tags Congressional Black Caucus Criminal justice execution George Floyd Nancy Pelosi police brutality racial inequality Steny Hoyer

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