Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress

Calls for law enforcement reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death are sparking divisions in Congress, raising early questions about what, if anything, will be able to make it to President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE’s desk. 

Lawmakers are grappling with how to respond to days of protests fueled by the police killing of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week while detained by Minneapolis police, that revived the national conversation about lingering racial inequality and the use of force by police officers. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Ky.) said “there may be a role” for lawmakers.


“We’ll be talking to our colleagues about what, if anything, is appropriate for us to do,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. 

Other GOP senators appeared more skeptical about legislation, underscoring potential roadblocks in the Republican-controlled chamber.  

“I don’t think so,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse Democrat optimistic defense bill will block Trump's Germany withdrawal EPA gives Oklahoma authority over many tribal environmental issues GOP lawmakers gloomy, back on defense after debate fiasco MORE (R-Okla.) said, asked if he thought Congress would pass reform legislation. “I highly suspect it would be political.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden Quinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, said that law enforcement reform legislation was “opportunistic” and “misses the point.”

“This idea that we somehow are going to paint all of law enforcement with a brush of racism is outrageous in and of itself and it's obviously designed to divide the country further,” Cornyn said about the prospects for legislation. 

But that’s likely to be met with fierce pushback from Democrats, who want to pass legislation in roughly a month. 


In the House, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) estimated that up to 50 pieces of legislation were under discussion and that the Congressional Black Caucus will take the lead on proposing a package. While the House isn’t scheduled to hold votes until the end of the month, he didn’t rule out that they could return earlier if they come up with an agreement. 

“We'll be coming together in support of those initiatives, and I expect that to happen in the near future. ... If, in fact, legislation is proposed by the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, and is considered by the committee and ready to go, we will then call all the members back to pass ... that legislation,” Hoyer told reporters. 

House Democrats held a call on Monday where they discussed various ideas and are expected to talk again on Thursday. 

Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaExpiring benefits raise economic stakes of stalled stimulus talks Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy Watchdog to audit Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds on defense contractors MORE (D-Calif.) and Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayWomen of color flex political might Five things we learned from this year's primaries Progressives aim for big night in Massachusetts MORE (D-Mo.) are pushing legislation to require federal officers to resort to force only as a last alternative. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that rank-and-file Democrats disagree over whether the goal should be sweeping legislation or a piecemeal approach, which might have a better chance of becoming law. 

“In a matter of just a short time, those decisions will be made and I think the American people will be well-served," Pelosi said. 

Hoyer pointed specifically to legislation, sponsored by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesA tearful lesson of 2016: Polls don't matter if people don't vote Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump Top House Democrat: Parties 'much closer' to a COVID deal 'than we've ever been' MORE (D-N.Y.), to ban police “chokeholds.” And Pelosi said efforts to root out racial profiling would be at the forefront. 

Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers call for small business aid at all levels of government The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy On the Money: Administration to ban TikTok, WeChat | House moves toward bill to avoid government shutdown | Coronavirus relief bills boosted GDP, CBO says MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday introduced a series of 10 proposals designed to rein in police brutality, particularly against African Americans. Dubbed the "Harlem Manifesto," the package includes measures to prohibit police departments from using military-grade weapons, mandate that all law enforcers wear body cameras and bar private prisons and jails.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-N.Y.) is publicly urging McConnell to vote on legislation before the two-week July 4 recess, but the GOP leader’s outline for the Senate’s agenda in June does not include police reform. 

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee MORE (D-N.J.), one of three black senators, unveiled a framework for legislation that includes making changes to “qualified immunity,” which shields police officers from having their actions challenged in court unless an individual can prove that an officer violated a “clearly established” law when their rights were violated. 

Booker’s bill would also make changes to police training and create a national registry to track police misconduct and require state and local officials to report use-of-force incidents to the Justice Department. In addition to Booker, Schumer said several other senators, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisObama to campaign for Biden in Florida Biden appears on Brené Brown's podcast to discuss 'empathy, unity and courage' The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden MORE (D-Calif.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinPelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out PPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  MORE (D-Md.), are working on bills. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems Trump signs legislation making hacking voting systems a federal crime Jaime Harrison on Lindsey Graham postponing debate: 'He's on the verge of getting that one-way ticket back home' MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has tentatively scheduled a hearing on the use of force by police officers for June 16, though he stopped short of pledging to offer legislation. 


“I don’t have anything in mind right now. But hopefully as part of the hearing we can find some things to do together,” he said. 

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Senate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court MORE (R-Alaska), one of the more moderate members of the GOP caucus, appeared undecided on what Congress's response should be. 

“I think these are conversations that we need to have. ... Is there a right legislative response? I don't know," she said. 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration MORE (R-Mo.) said that he was urging the Justice Department to reinstitute a pattern and practice review of local police departments, which he noted would be easier than getting legislation passed in the Capitol. 

“I think it’s pretty hard to come up with national police reform measures,” Blunt said, “which is why I think it’s better that the Justice Department work with individual police departments ... to help them determine what they could be doing better.” 

The partisan divisions were on display Tuesday when Schumer and McConnell blocked each other’s resolutions related to the protests. 


Schumer wanted to pass a resolution that, among other provisions, specifically condemned Trump for gas and rubber bullets being used on protesters near the White House on Monday night. 

McConnell, objecting, offered his own resolution supporting that the “legitimate grievances of peaceful protesters may be heard and considered” and the belief that “order must be immediately restored,” but Schumer blocked it. 

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthAmy Coney Barrett's extreme views put women's rights in jeopardy Trump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes McConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled MORE (D-Ill.) also tried to pass a bill that would provide grants for police training and require an independent review of the use of force, but it was blocked by Graham. 

“With no animosity, I object at this time. I hope we can get it [as] part of a broader agenda,” he said. 

Democrats are planning to force the issue during the upcoming debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCoordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon MORE (D-Hawaii) has said he will introduce an amendment to end a program that “transfers military weaponry to local police departments.” 

The Obama administration previously placed a halt on the so-called 1033 program, blocking the transfer of armored vehicles, grenade launchers and armed aircraft, among other things. But the Trump administration rescinded the restrictions in 2017. 


But Inhofe, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, rejected using the Senate’s version of the NDAA, which he spearheads, to make changes to the program. 

“The program, because I’ve been involved in this for a long period of time — in my state of Oklahoma — in small communities, they really depend on getting equipment, and so I am not concerned about that,” Inhofe said. 

Mike Lillis contributed