Senate GOP unlikely to bring up police reform bill before July 4 break
Several top Republican senators said on Monday that they do not expect to bring a forthcoming police reform bill to the floor before they leave for a two-week July 4 recess.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C) is expected to introduce the bill he has been spearheading on Wednesday, which would give the Senate just more than two weeks to try to pass the legislation before the break.
But top GOP senators say that’s likely not enough time.
Asked if he thought a bill could get through the Senate before July 4, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, replied, “No.”
“If we rush this, what we’ll wind up with is a couple of side-by-side votes, neither of which pass. So I don’t think there’s a likelihood of a successful conclusion of any legislation between now and July 4. And because of that, I don’t think a vote would serve a real purpose,” he said.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters that it was “probably unlikely” the bill would be able to come up before July 4.
Thune added that he would be “surprised” if the bill passes before the break because of “what we have to do and the fact that it’s not ready yet.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told reporters that he expected the Senate would have to address police reforms once they return from the break on July 20.
“It may be a comeback exercise when we return in July,” he said.
According to a draft circulated earlier this week, Scott’s bill would, among other provisions, increase funding for police body cameras and penalize not wearing them by reducing grants. It would also tie grant eligibility to reporting uses of force that cause death or serious injury to the FBI and to states maintaining systems that share police records.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that the legislation would also reduce some federal funds for police departments that continue to use chokeholds, though a spokesman for Scott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on if the bill would include such a provision.
Scott said he disagreed with potentially waiting a month before taking up a police reform bill.
“I think us waiting a month before we vote is a bad decision,” he said.
Thune also appeared to soften his stance after a closed-door GOP leadership meeting. He told reporters that Scott’s bill could come to the floor sooner is it is “ready” but deferred that decision to McConnell.
The Senate is poised to leave town by July 3. Before it does, it needs to wrap up a lands package, and McConnell has also teed up a vote on District Judge Justin Walker’s nomination to be on the D.C. Circuit Court. McConnell is expected to bring up a mammoth defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, which routinely spends weeks on the Senate floor.
The likelihood that Senate Republicans punt on police reform until mid-July comes as Democrats are clamoring for them to vote on the bill before the recess.
The House is expected to return to Washington to vote on a Democratic police reform bill by the end of the month.
“Let me repeat to my Republican colleagues: We need comprehensive and bold reform. And we need a commitment from the Republican leader to consider broad, strong police reform — the Justice in Policing Act — on the floor of the Senate before the Fourth of July,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Monday.
The Democratic bill, among other provisions, would ban chokeholds, limit the use of no-knock warrants and overhaul “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine that shields police officers from lawsuits.
Republicans and the White House have pointed to making changes to qualified immunity as a “poison pill” that could tank the overall chances of getting a deal.
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