House Republicans hopeful about bipartisan path forward on police reform legislation

Greg Nash

House Republicans say they are hopeful parties can come to a consensus on police reform legislation that will pass in both chambers. 

GOP members told The Hill they believe there’s an appetite within both parties to make substantial changes in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed while in Minneapolis police custody. 

The push for a bipartisan bill comes as calls for Congress to take action on police reform have echoed nationwide from demonstrators and activists protesting in cities large and small in the U.S. Both parties have vowed to take action to crack down on police misconduct. 

Congressional Democrats unveiled a sweeping proposal — drafted by top members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) — on Monday that includes language to curb police brutality and racial profiling by implementing new training requirements and stronger accountability measures for law enforcement.

GOP lawmakers have voiced frustrations that they were not included in Democrats’ negotiations, but have expressed that there are components of the legislation they believe both parties can get behind. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused Democratic leadership of keeping Republicans “shut out of those discussions,” but feels “there’s a place where we can work together.” The California Republican said he would like to work with the CBC on legislation, but noted that the House GOP will also be releasing its own bill. 

“We will focus on three main areas: performance, transparency and accountability,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.

“Eighty percent of law enforcement agencies expressed a need for increased training, but it’s work to achieve that while making our community safer transparency.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) — the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee who is leading the efforts on the House GOP police reform bill — met with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) on Thursday to discuss potential proposals. Scott is the the only black GOP senator, and he is slated to release his own bill next week. 

One senior GOP lawmaker said that Republicans are still determining the best route to take on reforms, telling The Hill they “want to be part of the solution” whether that be assisting with Scott’s bill, attempting to change Democrats’ bill “or a combo of both.”

The member noted that they still have questions about Scott’s bill and want to make sure the White House is on the same page. 

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the only black GOP member in the House, said he has had discussions with his Republican colleagues, members across the aisle and the White House about a path forward on a solution. 

“There are many Republicans that are open to trying to get an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill out of the House to address the twin issues of preventing another black person from dying in police custody and making sure we improve our police forces in order to keep our community safe,” he told The Hill in an interview on Thursday. 

“There is a way to get that done. It’s going to require political leadership, and it’s going to require the Democrats to be willing to negotiate with their colleagues.”

Republicans in the lower chamber have been encouraging their counterparts across the aisle to consider GOP amendments to their bill — which is slated to be marked up in committee next week — in hopes of reaching an agreement that can receive broad support from both parties. 

“This is a constantly evolving project. I think that if Democrats would allow Republican amendments at markup, this is one way to get to a piece of legislation that could pass the House in a bipartisan way,” Hurd said. 

“It would be it would be unbelievably disappointing if the willingness to solve this problem is there and if we don’t get to a final solution because of politics.” 

While McCarthy said he supports language in Democrats’ bill that bans chokeholds, the provision has been met with skepticism from some within the GOP. Qualified immunity, which shields police offers from lawsuits, has also been a sticking point for many Republicans. 

“When you say chokehold, chokehold means different things, some of the chokeholds are already banned from the use. But if somebody is handcuffed why are you having to do a chokehold?” Hurd, who previously served as a CIA officer, said. He added it’s unclear what the final agreement will look like. 

“On some of those nuances and where the sides are what might be an agreement, it’s hard to say what will be in the final agreement. Qualified immunity — can you narrow it down to cases of deadly force instead of removing it all the way? So there’s a number of ways to address each one of these particular elements.”

Olivia Beavers contributed. 

Tags Chokeholds George Floyd George Floyd killing George Floyd protests Jim Jordan Kevin McCarthy police accountability police brutality Police reform legislation Tim Scott Will Hurd

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