Senate Democrats to block GOP police reform bill, throwing overhaul effort into flux

Jun 24, 2020, 6:33 AM
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) (R) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K...
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) (R) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) take the podium for a news conference to unveil the GOP's legislation to address racial disparities in law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. Scott, the Senate's lone black Republican, lead the effort to write the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, which discourages the use of chokeholds, requires police departments to release more information on use of force and no-knock warrants, and encourages body cameras and better training. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    (CNN) — A Republican policing reform measure is on the verge of collapse in the Senate with Democrats lining up to block it after criticizing the legislation as an inadequate response to nationwide calls for action to address police misconduct and racial injustice.

The move by Democrats caps weeks of calls from both parties to move quickly on police reform amid protests and civil unrest across the country following high-profile episodes of police use of deadly force that sparked a national backlash. But efforts to find common ground have largely devolved into bitter, partisan finger-pointing, underscoring how a deep partisan divide may result in stalemate on the issue on Capitol Hill.

Democrats made clear on Tuesday that they plan to deny Senate Republicans the 60-votes needed on a procedural vote to begin debate on the bill, which was led by Tim Scott, the only Black Republican senator. If the vote fails, as it is expected to, lawmakers will not be able to open debate, offer amendments, or move to a final vote on passage.

“The Republican bill, as is, will not get 60 votes. There’s overwhelming opposition to the bill in our caucus,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday, adding, “The Republican majority has given the Senate a bad bill and proposed no credible way to sufficiently improve it.”

Scott, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said on Tuesday that he’s uncertain if there’s a path forward on police reform this year if Democrats block his bill.

“What happens if it fails? That’s a question I can’t really answer at this point,” he said.

An aide to Scott told CNN that on Tuesday at the Senate GOP lunch the senator played for his GOP colleagues hateful and racist voicemails his office has received in recent days. One Republican senator suggested he increase his own personal security.

Scott told The New York Times that the hateful and racist messages have become more intense in recent days.

“It’s interesting that we are on the right side of the police reform conversation, yet we’re on the wrong side according to the people, based on the way that we are characterized in the national press,” Scott told the Times.

House Democrats are planning to bring a Democratic-crafted policing proposal to a vote in their chamber on Thursday and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said last week that she had hoped to bring the Democratic legislation to conference with the Senate GOP proposal to reconcile differences.

But the possibility of the two parties finding enough common ground to enact a reform measure now looks increasingly like a remote possibility.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, Schumer wrote that the GOP bill is “not salvageable,” and that Democrats are demanding a bipartisan negotiation ahead of a floor vote.

Two top Republican leaders — Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Roy Blunt of Missouri — suggested on Tuesday that if Democrats filibuster the Scott policing reform bill, then it’s almost certainly dead for the year.

“There probably is no path forward in this Congress if they block debate tomorrow,” Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, told reporters on Tuesday.

Cornyn said he doesn’t think there will be bipartisan talks if the bill goes down on Wednesday.

“I mean why would we want to do this behind closed doors? Why can’t we do this on the floor of the Senate where everybody in the world could see?” he asked.

Republicans are already going after Democrats ahead of Wednesday’s procedural vote, a sign of the partisan discord surrounding debate over the issue.

Cornyn said that Democratic opposition to beginning debate on a police reform bill is “completely insane” and said he is not interested in negotiating with “hostage takers.”

“It’s completely insane,” Cornyn told reporters moments after Senate Democrats said they would block the bill on a procedural vote Wednesday unless Republicans reached an agreement with them to allow votes on amendments to change the bill.

Cornyn argued Democrats should vote to let the debate begin and allow each side to offer amendments and that Democrats could block going to a final vote if they were not satisfied with the makeup of the bill at the point.

“It’s just mindless obstruction,” he said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Democrats have also used strong language in criticizing the GOP proposal.

“Tim Scott’s bill is a half-assed bill that doesn’t do what we should be doing, which is doing honest police reform,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, said earlier this week.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal explained his party’s concerns with the GOP bill on Tuesday, saying, “The Republican bill is really just disastrously weak it betrays the demands for justice and change that I have seen, day after day in Connecticut,” he said.

While there is some overlap between the GOP and Democratic proposals, there are also key differences in the proposals that have created sticking points.

The GOP plan has a major emphasis on incentivizing states to take action, while the Democratic plan has a focus on setting national standards, such as mandates for federal uniformed officers to wear body cameras and banning chokeholds.

The Republican proposal does not include an outright ban on chokeholds but Scott argued earlier this week “we get very, very close to that place” by blocking federal grant funds to departments that don’t ban chokeholds themselves.

Another major sticking point between Democrats and Republicans is whether to overhaul qualified immunity for cops so it’s easier to sue them in civil court. The House Democratic bill overhauls the standard, while Scott’s Republican bill does not.

™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Christine McVie, one of the members of Fleetwood Mac, has died at the age of 79....
Lisa Respers France

Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac dead at 79

A statement from McVie's family said she'd been hospitalized with a short illness, and that her family was with her when she died.
17 hours ago
two deer are pictured gazing up along the grass, research will take a deep dive into deer this seas...
Elizabeth Weiler

DWR conducting deer research and checkups via helicopter transport

SALT LAKE CITY — Deer are plentiful in the Beehive State. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said this time of year is prime time to conduct deer research. DWR biologists are taking on a new form of research. The organization plans to capture deer and transport them via helicopter to different staging areas across […]
17 hours ago
santa claus...
Kim Passoth

More Santa’s helpers needed in this first “normal” year since pandemic

Unlike his boss at the North Pole, stand-in Santa Kevin Peachy can’t be everywhere at once. More Santa's helpers are needed!
17 hours ago
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becomes the first Black lawmaker to lead a political party in the U.S. Congres...
Daniella Diaz

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to succeed Pelosi, the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress

At 52, Jeffries represents a generational change from the current House Democratic leaders, who are three decades older than him.
17 hours ago
space radio...
Elizabeth Weiler

USU making history with a radio entering the lunar orbit

LOGAN, Utah — Utah State University has made history by being the first laboratory to successfully send a a radio, created by Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) into the orbit of earths moon.  The deep space radio named Iris, named after the Greek mythological goddess, daughter of Thaumas and Electra and messenger of the gods, made its […]
17 hours ago
Elizabeth Weiler

Man arrested in relation to Provo Towne Center Mall bomb threat

A Provo man was arrested after calling in a bomb threat to his former employer. The man was recently fired.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Senate Democrats to block GOP police reform bill, throwing overhaul effort into flux