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 TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Top House Democrat says party would lose elections if they were held today: report 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 InhofeOvernight Defense: Biden administration expands Afghan refugee program | Culture war comes for female draft registration | US launches third Somalia strike in recent weeks Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Gillibrand expects vote on military justice bill in fall MORE (R-Okla.) said, asked if he thought Congress would pass reform legislation. “I highly suspect it would be political.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 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 HoyerYellen tries to tamp down Democrats fury over evictions ban House bundling is bad for deliberation CBC presses Biden to extend eviction moratorium 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) KhannaCalifornia Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Overnight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes MORE (D-Calif.) and Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLobbying world Ex-Rep. Clay joins law and lobbying firm Pillsbury Liberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges MORE (D-Mo.) are pushing legislation to require federal officers to resort to force only as a last alternative. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries On The Money: Biden issues targeted eviction moratorium | GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium 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 JeffriesThe Memo: Disgraced Cuomo clings to power De Blasio blasts Cuomo over investigation: He should resign or be impeached Entire NY Democratic congressional delegation now calling for Cuomo's resignation 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 CabralHouse at war over Jan. 6 inquiry, mask mandate NYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency The Memo: Harris, Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic divide on immigration 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 Schumer'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Overnight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates National Organization for Women calls for Cuomo resignation 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 BookerWomen urge tech giants to innovate on office return Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines 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 HarrisKamala Harris and our shameless politics Pelosi: House Democrats 'ready to work with' Biden on eviction ban Meghan McCain predicts DeSantis would put Harris 'in the ground' in 2024 matchup MORE (D-Calif.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - 2024 GOPers goal: Tread carefully, don't upset Trump MORE (D-Md.), are working on bills. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Simone wins bronze with altered beam routine The job of shielding journalists is not finished The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions 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 MurkowskiGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Sarah Palin says she's praying about running for Senate against Murkowski Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection 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 BluntMissouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate New spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds 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 DuckworthOvernight Defense: Biden administration expands Afghan refugee program | Culture war comes for female draft registration | US launches third Somalia strike in recent weeks Overnight Defense: Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill | House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors | US increases airstrikes to help Afghan forces fight Taliban Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan infrastructure deal 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 SchatzGyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid On The Money: Stocks fall as COVID-19 fears rattle market | Schumer sets infrastructure showdown | Dems struggle to sell agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics 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