McConnell wants vote on police reform bill before July 4

McConnell wants vote on police reform bill before July 4
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project MORE (R-Ky.) wants to vote on a police reform bill before senators leave for the July 4 recess, three Republican senators told The Hill. 

The timeline is a complete U-turn from the predictions several top Republicans gave earlier Monday afternoon, when they told reporters before a meeting with McConnell that they did not expect to be able to pass a bill before the two-week break. 

"I think he, if everything can be pulled together, yeah. I think there's a sense that there's a lot of work that's been put into this and it would be nice to get it up and get it voted on," Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told The Hill when asked if McConnell wants to vote before the break.

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Thune added that the scheduling wasn't "concrete" but said McConnell "recognizes Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents The Memo: Trump grows weak as clock ticks down GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday MORE's done a lot of work" and that the South Carolina Republican senator would get "a lot of support for the work that he's done." 

Asked about McConnell wanting to bring a police reform bill to the floor before July 4, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (R-Wyo.) said that McConnell would "like to do that." A third GOP senator told The Hill that he believes McConnell "intends to have a vote if he can" before July 4. 

Scott, who has been spearheading efforts to craft the legislation, is planning to introduce the GOP police reform bill on Wednesday. That will give the Senate roughly two weeks to try to pass a police reform bill before they leave by July 3 for two weeks. 

The push by McConnell to vote before July 4 comes after many members of his leadership team told reporters heading into their closed-door meeting on Monday evening that they didn't think police reform could get done before the break.

McConnell hasn't publicly committed to a timeline for bringing up a police reform bill but touted the working group led by Scott on Monday. 

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"Under the leadership of Sen. Tim Scott, our conference is developing a serious proposal to reform law enforcement in smart ways without lashing out needlessly and counterproductively at the first responders who are a credit to their communities," McConnell said from the Senate floor. 

If senators don't pass a bill before July 4, they wouldn't be able to act on police reform until at least July 20, when they are scheduled to return from the break. 

Scott told reporters on Monday that he thought waiting that long was a mistake. 

“I think us waiting a month before we vote is a bad decision,” 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.

It's unclear, according to GOP senators, if McConnell would bring a police reform bill up for a vote even if there isn't backing from Democrats, who have lined up behind their own sweeping reform bill.

In order to pass the Senate, it will need at least 60 votes, which would require at least a handful of Democrats and potentially more if there are GOP defections. 

"I assume there will be some outreach done to Democrats, and hopefully we can find some common ground. I think this is one of those issues where everybody ought to want to get a result," Thune added. 

The decision to try to vote on a police reform bill before the July 4 recess comes as House Democrats are expected to vote on their bill later this month. 

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.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, said on Friday that they had 220 co-sponsors for the bill. 

“Grateful to all of my colleagues who have signed on to this historic policing reform legislation,” he added in a tweet. 

Democrats have also been publicly calling on McConnell to bring up a bill before the break. 

"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 SchumerChuck SchumerPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Monday.