Three GOP lawmakers vote for Democratic-led police reform bill
Three GOP lawmakers bucked party lines and voted to support House Democrats’ sweeping police reform bill Thursday night.
The legislation is aimed at reining in the use of excessive force by law enforcement in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police last month.
The majority of Republicans in the lower chamber slammed Democrats for shutting them out while writing the bill, and many voiced concerns on key provisions.
However, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) opted to vote for the measure, which passed in a 236 to 181 vote Thursday.
The bill is not expected to see movement in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the GOP-led police reform bill, which was blocked by Senate Democrats from moving forward with debate.
Hurd — a former CIA officer who is retiring from his congressional seat at the end of his term — said the House missed an opportunity to pass “an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill,” but felt that it addressed the issue of removing bad actors in law enforcement.
“Everyone here believes as I do that whether your skin is Black, or your uniform is blue, you should not feel targeted in this country. We have failed to do one simple thing — empower police chiefs to permanently fire bad cops. This is one of the most important things Congress could have addressed,” Hurd, the only Black member of the House Republican Conference, said on the floor.
“Keeping bad cops off the force could prevent another killing, like George Floyd. It would protect good police officers by ensuring bad officers, like George Floyd’s murderer, don’t soil the reputations of good officers,” he continued.
Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, said he was disappointed that the upper chamber was unable to move forward with debate, but hopes the House bill will further the conversation between chambers and parties as they look to pass critical reforms.
“I care immensely about law enforcement and that’s why I think they need to bridge this gap.”
And I was hoping that the Senate version would advance yesterday — it didn’t. So I think that we need to continue this conversation,” he told The Hill following the vote. “This is a way to do that.”
Upton echoed Fitzpatrick’s sentiments, arguing that while the bill is “by no means perfect,” and the “process has been far from perfect” they “can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
The Michigan Republican said he has concerns about its language to overhaul qualified immunity, which would make it easier for individuals subjected to police brutality to seek civil damages, but asserted he believes parties need to come together to make “meaningful changes.”
“The bill as it passed today will not become law but we now have an opportunity to seek common ground. I have talked with a number of law enforcement officials across my district and share their real concerns about the qualified immunity provision, which would truly hinder their ability to train and recruit good officers. This provision — as is — cannot and should not become law,” he said in a statement.
“I would also add that calls to ‘defund the police’ are absolutely the wrong answer. They need resources for better pay, training, and equipment, like body cameras, to help them do their jobs and keep our communities safe. At the same time, we need to look at ways to enhance critical community services like mental health, youth development, housing and education.”
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