House

House sets vote for George Floyd police reform bill

The House will vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said Wednesday morning during a press call about the sweeping police reform proposal.

The bill - reintroduced last week by Bass and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) - is a top legislative priority for Democrats after it passed the House in a bipartisan vote in the last Congress but was never brought up in the Senate.

Bass noted that Thursday's vote would come nearly 30 years to the day that Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police.

"When that event happened, I thought that that would be the time policing in America was transformed because the entire world could see. Needless to say, 30 years later we are still trying to transform policing in the United States," she said. 

"Since George Floyd was murdered a year ago, there have been over 100 officer involved shootings. ... I am confident that we will be able to have a bipartisan bill in the Senate that will reach President Biden's desk," Bass said.

The California lawmaker initially put forth the bill last summer after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

If signed into the law, the legislation would bring about widespread changes to national policing guidelines.

Racial profiling at every level of law enforcement would be prohibited; chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants would be banned at the federal level; qualified immunity for officers would be overhauled and a national police misconduct registry would be created so officers who were fired for such discretions could not be hired by another police department.

Although the bill would not technically mandate the prohibition of certain reforms such as chokeholds at a state and local level, it would tie in the new federal standards as thresholds for police departments to meet if they wanted to continue receiving federal aid. 

A senior Democratic aide on the call said that the bill also creates "public safety innovation grants for community based organizations to create local conditions and task forces to reimagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches."

Floyd's death, as well as the police killing of Breonna Taylor, catalyzed a summer of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, and renewed calls for police reform and the end to systemic racism.

Republicans have proposed other legislation on the issue, with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introducing the Justice Act, which shares similarities to the Democrats' bill. Additionally, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act to ban no-knock warrants, such as the one that led to Taylor's death.

Bass said bipartisan discussions with senators have already begun, particularly with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Scott.

Scott on Tuesday said in a statement that he was "open to having conversations on civil qualified immunity as it relates to police departments, cities, and municipalities being held accountable for the actions of those they employ," but described the current bill as "partisan." 

"I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle will come to the table to find common ground where we can make meaningful changes that will bring us closer to the goal of a more just country," Scott said.

While the bill garnered three Republican votes last time it was up for a vote in the House, it could very well not see the same bipartisan support this time.

"We're not sure if we will have Republican support. We certainly hope that we will," a senior Democratic aide on the press call said, adding that across-the-aisle conversations about the bill had been going on since before the bill first passed.

Outbrain