Schumer: GOP police reform bill 'does not rise to the moment'

Schumer: GOP police reform bill 'does not rise to the moment'
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (N.Y.) on Wednesday panned a Republican police reform bill crafted by Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Lobbying world As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape MORE (R-S.C.), saying it falls short of what is needed to address police brutality and violence.

“We’ve only had the bill for a few hours and are reviewing it, but what’s clear is that the Senate Republican proposal on policing does not rise to the moment,” Schumer said.

His sharp criticism of the GOP bill, which Scott crafted with a working group of Senate Republican colleagues, casts doubt on whether the legislation can muster the 60 votes needed to begin debate on it next week.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' MORE (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday morning he will schedule a motion to proceed to police reform next week.

"I hope they'll join us in getting on the bill and trying to move forward,” McConnell said.

But the prospect of even holding a floor debate on the issue is starting to look doubtful.

Schumer on Wednesday highlighted several differences between Scott's bill and a joint Senate-House Democratic police reform package unveiled last week.

Schumer noted the Democratic bill has a ban on no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, while the Republican bill “only requires data on no-knock warrants.”

He also argued that the Democratic bill would create a publicly available nationwide database on police misconduct so that abusive officers can’t simply transfer to other departments when they get into trouble.

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“The Republican bill would keep such information almost entirely shielded from public view,” Schumer said.

He also pointed out what he called the Democratic bill’s “ban” on chokeholds and argued “the Republican bill purports to ban chokeholds but only those that restrict air flow and not blood flow” and would create an exception for when an officer’s life is in danger.

“Who determines when deadly force is needed? Usually the police themselves and the courts defer to their judgment,” Schumer said.

He also criticized the GOP bill for being “silent on racial profiling and militarization of local police departments.”

But he argued the “greatest flaw” in the Republican proposal was the lack of language to reform the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which protects officers accused of civil rights violations from lawsuits. 

“So we have a tale of two chambers, a glaring contrast between a strong, comprehensive Democratic bill in the House and a much narrower and much less effective Republican bill in the Senate,” he said.

Scott told reporters Wednesday that he has had several conversations with Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.), one of the lead sponsors of the Democratic police reform bill.

Scott also defended his legislation from claims it would not ban chokeholds. He noted that the measure would withhold federal funding from departments that continue to train officers in the use of chokeholds.

Scott said the "inability to have any grants if your department has chokeholds that, frankly, is by default a ban on chokeholds."

The Democratic package includes language that would make the use of a chokehold a violation of civil rights, but Scott argued Wednesday that the language is unnecessary and such a use of deadly force is already covered by civil rights law.

Proponents of the GOP bill argue it would dramatically increase the number of police body cameras in use.

"We ought to be voting 100 to zero to get on this bill next week and try to make it better," said Sen. Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (R-Neb.), a member of Scott's working group.