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Booker says he’s talking with Scott, Graham about policing reform package

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), in a photo outside the U.S. Capitol on June 6, 2022. Booker introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which would repeal the Helms Amendment.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on Sunday that he is talking with a pair of Republican senators about a potential policing reform package, after the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn. reignited a congressional push to pass reform legislation. 

Booker was a lead negotiator of an unsuccessful effort to pass a policing reform bill in 2021 with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Now, Booker says he and Scott have “not stopped talking” about the issue since the failed efforts two years ago.

“Tim and I have not stopped talking,” Booker said in an interview with “Face The Nation” on CBS on Sunday. “We may have stopped formal negotiations, but he and I are actually friends… we’re two Black men in America who’ve had really awful experiences with law enforcement.”

Booker also said that he has had recent conversations with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about the policing reform measures. 

“He is somebody that agrees with me that there is common sense here,” Booker said of Graham. “I’m happy that I have Republican colleagues that agree this is wrong and we’re trying to work something out.”

But even as Nichols’s death has shined yet another spotlight on the issue of police reform, Scott has dimmed hopes that Republicans would agree to the provisions in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the House bill that Democrats passed in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minnesota.

“Resurrecting the House progressives’ police reform bill is a nonstarter. I’ve been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing. Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge. Solutions that would have made a difference in places like Memphis & Kenosha,” Scott said in a Twitter thread last week.

But Graham has floated the idea that there may be a compromise on qualified immunity, which was one of the sticking points in negotiations between the parties in 2021.

Qualified immunity is the rule that shields law enforcement from liability in civil lawsuits unless accusers can prove that the allegations amount to a violation of constitutional rights and those rights are “clearly established.” It is a hurdle that a number of activists and some lawmakers say is unclear in many police misconduct cases. Democrats wanted the protection completely axed.

But Graham said on social media that while he doesn’t believe individual officers should have civil lawsuits filed against them, he does believe that police departments should face liability for the actions of their officers.

“I oppose civil lawsuits against individual officers,” Graham said on Twitter. “However, holding police departments accountable makes sense and they should face liability for the misconduct of their officers.”

Tags Booker Cory Booker Graham Lindsey Graham policing reform Scott Tim Scott Tyre Nichols

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