Top negotiators report progress on police reform: 'We remain optimistic'

Top negotiators report progress on police reform: 'We remain optimistic'
© Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calf.) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) speak to reporters following a meeting about police reform legislation

The trio of lawmakers spearheading bipartisan negotiations on police reform legislation say they “remain optimistic” despite missing President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE’s deadline to pass a bill by Tuesday, the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.

“While we are still working through our differences on key issues, we continue to make progress toward a compromise and remain optimistic about the prospects of achieving that goal,” Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerMaternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-N.J.) and 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.) and Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassFor Democrats it should be about votes, not megaphones Proposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy Bass calls 'Black pastors' comment during Arbery trial 'despicable' MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress last month, Biden called on lawmakers to “work together to find a consensus” and pass a police reform bill by Tuesday.

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Bass, however, announced last week that the lawmakers would not meet the May 25 deadline, but assured reporters that “it’s not going to take months.”

The House earlier this month approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a 220-212 vote, but the legislation has since stalled in the Senate due to Republican opposition.

The bill was first introduced by Bass in June after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, killing him. Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd's murder last month.

The main sticking point between the two parties is qualified immunity, the doctrine that protects state and local government officials, including law enforcement, from most liability in civil suits unless they violate a person’s clearly established constitutional rights.

Democrats want to do away with the legal principle, but Republicans are fighting to keep it intact.

The parties are also at odds over a federal provision known as the “color of law” statute, which forbids law enforcement personnel from deliberately depriving “a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

Democrats and civil rights advocates are arguing that nixing both statutes would force police officers to be accountable for their behavior. Republicans, however, are saying that removing the protections would hurt the quality of police officers and make it more difficult for them to complete their jobs.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled earlier this month that he would be willing to compromise on qualified immunity to pass a police reform bill with bipartisan support, saying that if Democrats are unable to abolish qualified immunity, they will “come back and try to get it later.”

“I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect,” Clyburn added.

Booker on Sunday said Congress is “making meaningful progress” in negotiations, adding that he remains focused on eliminating qualified immunity.

The trio of lawmakers also recognized the anniversary of Floyd’s death, writing that it is “a painful reminder” of why “meaningful change” is needed.

“One year ago, George Floyd’s murder awakened millions of people around the world who had never before witnessed the deadly consequences of the failures in our policing system. This anniversary serves as a painful reminder of why we must make meaningful change,” the lawmakers wrote.