GOP senator introducing bill to scale back qualified immunity for police

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses GOP fears boomerang as threat of government shutdown grows Overnight Defense & National Security — Senate looks to break defense bill stalemate MORE (R-Ind.) is introducing legislation on Tuesday to scale back qualified immunity, an idea that divides Senate Republicans. 

Braun’s bill, titled the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act, would get rid of a current standard that shields police officers from civil lawsuits if their behavior didn't  violate a "clearly established" law.

Instead, a police officer would be eligible for qualified immunity if the conduct in question “had previously been authorized or required by federal or state statute or regulation” or if a court has found it is “consistent with the Constitution and federal laws.”

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Braun, in a statement, argued that it’s time for Congress to weigh in on the scope of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine created through court rulings that shields police officers from civil lawsuits. 

“To claim qualified immunity under the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act, a government employee such as a police officer would have to prove that there was a statute or court case in the relevant jurisdiction showing his or her conduct was authorized: a meaningful change that will help law enforcement and the citizens they protect,” he added. 

Whether or not to make changes to qualified immunity has emerged as a significant sticking point that could bar getting a police reform bill through Congress and signed by President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE

The White House and some Republicans — including Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottHow expanded credit data can help tackle inequities Dems erupt over GOP 'McCarthyism' as senators vet Biden bank watchdog pick Why Democrats' prescription drug pricing provision would have hurt seniors MORE (R-S.C.), the only Black GOP senator, who spearheaded the Republican police reform proposal — view qualified immunity changes as a “poison pill” that sinks the prospects for a bill.

Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud GOP fears boomerang as threat of government shutdown grows Overnight Defense & National Security — Senate looks to break defense bill stalemate MORE (R-Mo.) and John CornynJohn CornynHouse passes bill to expedite financial disclosures from judges McConnell leaves GOP in dark on debt ceiling Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default MORE (R-Texas), two members of GOP leadership, told The Hill late last week that they did not expect changes to qualified immunity to end up in the Senate bill before, or if, it is able to pass the chamber initially. 

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But Braun and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.), in particular, have indicated they are open to discussing changes.

Braun told reporters last week that he had interest from other GOP senators, though he declined to say if it could get 60 votes.

“If you want to do nothing with qualified immunity, to me, we're missing an opportunity because it's based on transparency and accountability, and you've got all of that in most other areas other than government related stuff," Braun said at the time

The House Democrats' bill, which is scheduled to go to a vote on Thursday, would overhaul qualified immunity by allowing individuals to receive damages in civil court "when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement," according to a Judiciary Committee fact sheet.

The measure would specify that a defendant is not immune from lawsuits just because they were acting in a way they thought was reasonable or lawful at the time or because they weren't violating a "clearly established" law.

Updated 11:44 a.m.