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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 McConnellTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Biden signals he's willing to delay Trump trial MORE (R-Ky.), want to vote on a police reform bill before the July 4 recess.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda NRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that a forthcoming bill from Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senator calls Biden's COVID-19 relief plan a 'non-starter' GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office Biden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP 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 BluntTrump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda 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 DurbinDick DurbinOvernight Health Care — Fauci: Lack of facts 'likely' cost lives in coronavirus fight | CDC changes COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow rare mixing of Pfizer, Moderna shots | Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda Hillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts 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."