Senate could vote on GOP police reform bill as early as next week

Senate could vote on GOP police reform bill as early as next week
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are discussing holding a vote on a forthcoming police reform proposal as soon as next week.

The timeline, which senators stressed was in flux, is the latest sign that Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Trump expects to nominate woman to replace Ginsburg next week Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE (R-Ky.), want to vote on a police reform bill before the July 4 recess.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWhat Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump contradicts CDC director on vaccine, masks MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that a forthcoming bill from Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottAuthor Ryan Girdusky: RNC worked best when highlighting 'regular people' as opposed to 'standard Republicans' Now is the time to renew our focus on students and their futures GOP lobbyists pleasantly surprised by Republican convention MORE (R-S.C.) could "potentially" come to the floor next week.

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"If we can get, you know, get it ready to go, ready for the floor then I wouldn't be surprised if we pivot to that at some point, potentially next week," Thune told reporters.

He added that McConnell "wants us to get a vote."

Asked about Thune's comments on a bill coming to the floor as soon as next week, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCDC tells Congress it urgently needs billion for vaccine distribution On The Money: Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package | Communities of color hit hardest financially by COVID-19 | Businesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package MORE (Mo.), also a member of GOP leadership, told reporters "that seems to be the direction we're headed."

"I think that's going to be one of the topics discussed today" at the GOP lunch, he added. "Whether that actually gets us to a bill that we actually can pass or a bill that we all get to take a position on is two different views of that I think."

When a reporter noted that it seemed like the Senate was heading in the former direction, Blunt added, "it does."

It's the latest sign that Republicans are ramping up their efforts to quickly hold a vote on police reform legislation amid calls for changes in the wake of George Floyd's death, which sparked weeks of protests around the country.

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Senate Republicans, including Thune, initially told reporters on Monday that the chamber was unlikely to have a vote before the July 4 recess.

But members of GOP leadership changed that timeline after a closed-door meeting with McConnell, saying that the GOP leader wants to vote before that break. 

The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington by July 3, and will not return until July 20.

Scott is expected to introduce his bill Wednesday. McConnell told reporters that he had named Scott to lead a task force to come up with reform legislation.

The bill, according to Scott, would seek to restrict the use of chokeholds by reducing federal funds to state and local departments that don't have a ban of the tactic.

The bill, according to a draft version circulated last week, would also 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.

Scott told reporters on Monday that he thought it would be a "bad decision" to wait until mid-to-late July to hold a vote on a police reform bill.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) separately told reporters on Tuesday that while it wasn't his decision if he controlled the floor he would bring up police reform after the Senate finishes debating a lands bill, which is expected to be wrapped up Wednesday.

"If that means working weekends, I'll support that," he told reporters.

But Scott's bill has not been negotiated with Democrats, who unveiled their own sweeping proposal last week.

The bill will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, meaning that if McConnell brings up the bill without Democratic support it could fall short.

Asked if he was concerned McConnell could bring up the GOP police reform bill to make Democrats block it, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Top GOP senator calls for Biden to release list of possible Supreme Court picks MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said "I'm sure that's their strategy."

"The fact that we haven't even seen it yet ... it's a big mystery as to what Sen. McConnell's agenda is," he said. "If he's serious, we ought to be negotiating."