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 TrumpEx-Trump lawyer Cohen to pen forward for impeachment book Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again Man known as 'QAnon Shaman' asks Trump for pardon after storming Capitol 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 McConnellTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate 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 Inhofe'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Republican senators now regret not doing more to contain Trump GOP senator says he's never seen Pence so angry amid Trump calls to block election certification MORE (R-Okla.) said, asked if he thought Congress would pass reform legislation. “I highly suspect it would be political.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Rick Scott will 'likely' join challenge to election results Former NY GOP gov calls election challenges 'grave threat to our freedom' 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 HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? The Hill's 12:30 Report: House moves toward second impeachment Hoyer: MAGA stands for 'Make America Grieve Again' 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) KhannaHouse impeaches Trump for second time — with some GOP support Stacey Abrams gets kudos for work in Georgia runoff election Sex workers warn of unintended consequences in Section 230 fight MORE (D-Calif.) and Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayRep. Bush calls Trump a 'white supremacist president' on House floor Democrats introduce legislation to strike slavery exception in 13th Amendment 'It's not a slogan': Progressives push back on Obama's comments on 'defund the police' movement MORE (D-Mo.) are pushing legislation to require federal officers to resort to force only as a last alternative. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency Dozens on FBI's terrorist watchlist were in DC day of Capitol riot Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector 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 JeffriesUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Lawmakers mount pressure on Trump to leave office Sunday shows - Capitol siege, Trump future dominate 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 CabralThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 ER doctor chosen to lead Hispanic Caucus 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 SchumerNikki Haley unveils PAC ahead of possible 2024 White House bid Trump calls for 'NO violence' amid concerns of threats around inauguration Amazon cites death threats in push to keep Parler offline 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 BookerNCAA tables name, image and likeness vote after DOJ warns of potential antitrust violations Warren and other senators seek investigation into Trump administration resuming federal executions Cory Booker says he has no plans to propose to Rosario Dawson this Christmas 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 HarrisBiden calls for swift action while outlining .9 trillion virus relief package Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump's growing isolation as administration comes to an end MORE (D-Calif.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinGeorgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Trump signs bill authorizing memorial to fallen journalists Sweeping COVID-19, spending deal hits speed bumps MORE (D-Md.), are working on bills. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Additional airlines ban guns on flights to DC ahead of inauguration Graham congratulates former rival Harrison on being picked to lead DNC 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 MurkowskiMurkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate 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 BluntUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Senate to be briefed on inauguration security after Capitol attack This week: Democrats barrel toward Trump impeachment after Capitol attack 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 DuckworthThe best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Duckworth demands Pentagon investigate whether troops participated in Capitol riots 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 SchatzSenate Democrats rebuke GOP colleagues who say they'll oppose Electoral College results 11 Senate Republicans say they will oppose Electoral College results Wednesday Fight over Federal Reserve powers holding up year-end deal 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