McConnell signals he will not negotiate police reform with Democrats before bringing up bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated on Tuesday that he will not negotiate with Democrats before he brings a forthcoming GOP police reform proposal to the floor, saying Democrats will have to decide whether to block a bill from Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). 

Asked if he expected a negotiation between Democrats and Republicans on police reform, McConnell said Democrats would need to decide if they will help provide support to get the GOP police reform bill over an initial 60-vote hurdle and then try to make changes.  

“When we turn to it, I’ll file cloture on the motion to proceed to get to the bill and at that point the Democrats, I think, have to make a decision, do they want to prevent this bill from going to the floor or do they want to get on it and try to change it?” McConnell said.  

“But what I envision here is an effort to make a law and I’m fully aware that it takes 60 votes to get something out of the Senate, so it will really be up to them to decide how they want to handle this,” McConnell added.  

The decision Democrats have, according to McConnell, is either to “shoot … down” the GOP proposal from Scott or “take the risk to go to the bill and see what changes, if any, we can all agree to in order to get to 60.” 

Scott will unveil the GOP proposal on Wednesday, roughly a week after McConnell announced that he had tapped the South Carolina senator, and only black Republican in the Senate, to lead negotiations within the caucus on coming up with a police reform bill. 

When, specifically, McConnell will bring up the GOP police reform proposal, which will be introduced on Wednesday, remains unclear. But he’s expected to announce by Wednesday if the Senate will turn to it or a defense bill after they wrap a lands package and two judicial nominations.  

“In the morning I’ll announce where we’re going next. There are two paths that could be taken: One we could go to the NDAA, the other we could go to the Tim Scott police bill, which is close to being finished,” McConnell told reporters, referring to the National Defense Authorization Act. 

Scott’s proposal is expected to get wide support within the conference.  

Scott told reporters on Monday night that it would restrict funds to state and local law enforcement departments that don’t have a ban on the use of chokeholds, which has been in the spotlight following the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.  

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. 

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said they think the Senate could vote on Scott’s proposal as soon as next week. 

“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,” Blunt said. 

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

But Democrats have warned that early details of Scott’s proposal fall short of what they believe Congress needs to pass in response to Floyd’s death and weeks of protests urging police reforms.  

Democrats introduced a sweeping bill last week that would overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers from lawsuits, and restrict the use of no-knock warrants — two issues that are not expected to be in the GOP proposal. 

Asked if he was worried McConnell would bring up the GOP bill just to make Democrats bring it down, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told The Hill on Tuesday that “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.”

Durbin added that if there was not going to be bipartisan negotiations then McConnell should agree to bring both the GOP bill and the Democratic bill up for a vote.  

But McConnell on Tuesday said the Democratic bill, which is expected to get a vote in the House later this month, was “going nowhere” in the Senate. 

“It’s basically typical Democratic overreach to try to control everything in Washington. We have no interest in that,” he said. 

Tags Dick Durbin John Thune Mitch McConnell police reform Roy Blunt Tim Scott
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