Lawmakers see some common ground on police reform proposals

Greg Nash

Lawmakers said Sunday there is common ground between Congressional Democrats and Republicans regarding some aspects of police reform as GOP senators outlined a number of provisions they expect will be included in their proposal on the issue.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the Republican appointed to lead a group of GOP senators on police reform legislation, said Sunday there’s a path forward for a bipartisan bill. 

“There are approaches that are very similar and somewhat different – at the same time. I think we’re going to get to a bill that actually becomes law,” Scott said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 

Scott acknowledged some of the contention between Republican and Democratic backed ideas, but he said he hopes if “we’re that close on making progress” that lawmakers “don’t let partisanship get in the way.” 

Scott said Thursday he will be introducing a bill on police reform this week. It follows Democrats in the House and Senate unveiling sweeping legislation last Monday. 

Scott said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” the Senate GOP bill will focus on three major aspects: localities reporting information to the Department of Justice regarding situations of “serious bodily injury and death,” deescalation training tactics, and “drilling into officer misconduct.” 

He also voiced support for a ban on chokeholds, which is among measures included in the Democrats’ bill. 

Scott said on NBC chokeholds are a “policy whose time has come and gone.” 

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) also said he supports passing a national ban on chokeholds. 

“Absolutely we should have that, that is one of the things that we should have engaged in a long time ago,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” he has heard from a GOP colleague, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, that the Senate’s policing reform proposal may address the doctrine of qualified immunity, despite Scott saying the White House considers the issue a “poison pill.” 

“I know the heart of Tim Scott, and senators like Sen. Braun, who said to me ‘qualified immunity’s on the table,’” Booker said. “We are one body in the United States Senate, and people of good heart and good spirit, regardless of what the president does. He can veto a bill, but we should come forward in this moment in history.”

“Let’s understand that [limiting] qualified immunity right now is not a Democratic-supported thing. Clarence Thomas and conservative Supreme Court justices say that we need to re-examine qualified immunity,” Booker added. “Some of my Republican colleagues in the Senate right now have come forward to me and said we need to re-examine qualified immunity.”

Asked about qualified immunity, which shields government employees from being held personally liable for discretionary actions taken on their jobs, on “Meet the Press” Scott said he would be “interested in decertification of officers.” 

“The left says that’s a union issue that’s kind of hard to get at. Qualified immunity on the right, that’s an issue that most Republicans don’t like at all, to include myself,” Scott said. “So the question is, is there a path forward that we take a look at the necessity of eliminating bad behavior within our law enforcement community? Is there a path forward? I think we’ll find that. I’m not sure that it’s qualified immunity. It seems like it won’t be decertification.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third ranking House Democrat, also suggested there’s a potential for a bipartisan bill to pass regarding police reform. 

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if the Republican bill is a “non-starter,” Clyburn said he never calls anything a non-starter. 

“There’s always potential for compromise, in my opinion, when you’re trying to do legislation. Our system is designed that way,” he said. 

Among Democrats, there is also a split over responding to police reform. More progressive members are joining protesters in calling for defunding and dismantling the police, but more other Democrats are instead pushing to reform the existing system. 

“You can’t really reform a department that is rotten to the root, what you can do is rebuild,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” after the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to explore a new safety model for the city. 

“What we are saying is the current infrastructure that exists as policing in our city should not exist anymore, and we can’t go about creating a different process with the same infrastructure in place,” she added. 

Clyburn, however, said that “nobody is going to defund the police.” 

“We can restructure the police forces, restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do,” Clyburn said. “The fact of the matter is the police have a role to play. What we’ve got to do is make sure that their role is one that meets the times, one that responds to these communities that they operate in.” 

A push for police reform legislation has been amplified after the killing of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests over racial inequality and police brutality. 

Floyd died last month in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for several minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. The officer and three others were fired and have been criminally charged.

Tags Clarence Thomas Cory Booker Ilhan Omar Jake Tapper James Lankford Mike Braun police brutality police reform Sunday shows Tim Scott

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