SEVERE WX : Frost Advisory View Alerts

Biden, Democrats push historic police reform legislation

Democrats complain about accusations of 'defunding the police.'

Posted: Mar 3, 2021 6:24 PM
Updated: Mar 4, 2021 11:03 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cheered on by President Joe Biden, House Democrats hustled Wednesday to pass the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, able to avoid clashing with moderates in their own party who are wary of reigniting a debate they say hurt them during last fall's election.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was approved 220-212 late Wednesday.

A National Guard member keeps watch along Constitution Avenue at the Capitol where heightened security remains since the Jan. 6 attacks by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, in Washington, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The U.S. Capitol Police A National Guard member keeps watch along Constitution Avenue at the Capitol where heightened security remains since the Jan. 6 attacks by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, in Washington, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The U.S. Capitol Police

Minnesota Republican Jim Hagedorn issued the following statement after the vote:

“Speaker Pelosi’s so-called ‘reform’ bill eliminates qualified immunity for police officers, which will force them to purchase private insurance to simply do their jobs. And if it becomes law, this will result in many of our law enforcement men and women retiring early or changing careers."

“I support my friend Congressman Pete Stauber’s JUSTICE Act, which delivers commonsense reforms, including enhanced training of de-escalation tactics, increasing the use of body cameras, and establishing thorough and comprehensive reporting requirements when officers discharge their weapons."

“Law enforcement officers must make split second, lifesaving decisions. Turning our backs on them and defunding the police will not enhance safety on America’s streets. Instead, we must ensure police departments have the funds needed to recruit, train, and retain high-quality officers and public servants. I will always support and respect our police.”

The sweeping legislation, which was first approved last summer but stalled in the Senate, was named in honor of Floyd, whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked protests nationwide. The bill would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability.

“My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequalities our country has struggled with for centuries,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who represents the Minneapolis area near where Floyd died. She asked her colleagues if they would "have the moral courage to pursue justice and secure meaningful change?”

Democrats say they were determined to pass the bill a second time, to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. Those killings drew a national and international outcry.

Floyd’s family watched the emotional debate from a nearby House office building.

But the debate over legislation has turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that Democrats were intent on slashing police force budgets. This bill doesn't do that.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said it was a reason the party, after talking confidently of growing its majority in November, instead saw it shrink to just 10 seats, 221-211.

“We played too much defense on ‘defund the police,’” Perez said.

Moderate Democrats said the charge helped drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country.

“No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Texas Democrat who has pushed for more police funding in places like his city of Laredo, where the law enforcement presence is especially concentrated given the close proximity to the Mexican border.

While Democrats used their then-larger majority to pass the police reform measure in the House last summer, it stalled in the then-Republican-controlled Senate, where GOP senators pushed an alternate plan that Democrats blocked from consideration, calling it inadequate. Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, but it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support.

The bill had been set for a vote Thursday, but House leaders abruptly changed the schedule to wrap up their week's work after U.S. Capitol Police warned of threats of violence at the Capitol two months after the Jan. 6 siege.

Senior Democratic congressional aides said Wednesday they were eager to get the bill to the Senate, where negotiations will take longer.

Republicans quickly revived the “defund the police” criticisms. “Our law enforcement officers need more funding not less,” Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., said during Wednesday's debate.

Despite the political attacks by Republicans, even the House's more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, backed the bill.

“Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement," said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the moderate New Democrat Coalition.

That endorsement came despite the bill's prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate.

Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without such legal protections, fear of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits such suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees.

California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it.

“My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said.

She called provisions limiting qualified immunity and easing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.”

Bass said she would not make concessions before the bill cleared the House. Changes would only serve to weaken it while failing to shield Democrats from the false “defund the police” narrative surrounding it, she said.

“Even if they were to vote against the bill, even if they were to have a press conference denouncing the bill, they are still going to be hit with the same lie,” Bass said of Democrats.

She also acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But Bass said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how “the scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.”

“That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?”

Still, she conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50. Bass said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support.

Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.”

“That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding, “Hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.”

That could prove a tall order, despite the White House's vocal support for police reform. Biden has promised to combat systemic racism and signed executive orders he says will begin doing that, though advocates are expecting the new administration to go further.

Biden has tweeted that he hopes "to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587762

Reported Deaths: 7324
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1217771724
Ramsey50848870
Dakota45493446
Anoka41276436
Washington26615280
Stearns22077221
St. Louis17637302
Scott17137124
Wright15873139
Olmsted1316498
Sherburne1157185
Carver1041645
Clay811792
Rice7991106
Blue Earth744441
Crow Wing658688
Kandiyohi650683
Chisago589051
Otter Tail571778
Benton563697
Goodhue474972
Mower463732
Douglas463674
Winona451850
Itasca428053
McLeod420258
Morrison416260
Isanti415364
Nobles407148
Beltrami391058
Steele383915
Polk382268
Becker377950
Lyon359250
Carlton343553
Freeborn340729
Pine326222
Nicollet322743
Brown304040
Mille Lacs300352
Le Sueur288222
Todd280432
Cass269028
Meeker253740
Waseca236222
Martin229731
Roseau207519
Wabasha20473
Hubbard186341
Dodge18313
Renville178643
Redwood172636
Houston171315
Cottonwood164221
Fillmore155310
Wadena154522
Pennington153619
Chippewa151638
Faribault151119
Kanabec143224
Sibley142310
Aitkin133936
Watonwan13189
Rock127819
Jackson121811
Pipestone114726
Yellow Medicine113820
Pope10916
Murray10609
Swift104818
Stevens90211
Marshall87817
Clearwater86116
Koochiching81715
Lake80819
Wilkin80412
Lac qui Parle75022
Big Stone5984
Lincoln5773
Grant5678
Mahnomen5459
Norman5399
Unassigned48693
Kittson48422
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3213
Cook1590

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 365723

Reported Deaths: 5925
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57406622
Linn20778334
Scott19903240
Black Hawk15777308
Woodbury15105228
Johnson1444083
Dubuque13347209
Dallas1114698
Pottawattamie11082168
Story1058248
Warren575088
Clinton552792
Cerro Gordo537889
Sioux513474
Webster511493
Marshall482075
Muscatine476299
Des Moines453266
Wapello4288122
Buena Vista424240
Jasper417771
Plymouth400480
Lee374255
Marion361075
Jones297357
Henry290837
Carroll285152
Bremer283360
Crawford265840
Boone263334
Benton255455
Washington253650
Dickinson247843
Mahaska229551
Jackson221142
Kossuth215264
Clay215125
Tama209171
Delaware208740
Winneshiek196834
Page192622
Buchanan190531
Cedar189223
Hardin184943
Fayette184741
Wright184236
Harrison179373
Hamilton179249
Clayton169456
Butler164634
Mills161722
Madison161419
Floyd160142
Cherokee158538
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154733
Allamakee150951
Iowa148224
Hancock147034
Winnebago141631
Cass137854
Calhoun137313
Grundy136233
Emmet134140
Jefferson132335
Shelby130537
Sac130119
Union128133
Appanoose127949
Louisa127849
Mitchell125842
Chickasaw123915
Guthrie120829
Humboldt118826
Franklin118121
Palo Alto112423
Howard104422
Montgomery103238
Clarke99824
Unassigned9770
Keokuk95531
Monroe95129
Ida90234
Adair86332
Pocahontas85322
Monona82830
Davis82524
Osceola78216
Greene77610
Lucas77123
Worth7428
Taylor65712
Fremont6229
Decatur6069
Van Buren55718
Ringgold55524
Wayne53623
Audubon50710
Adams3384
Rochester
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Mason City
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 28°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 37°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 37°
Charles City
Clear
° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: °
Gradual warm-up this week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Century track and field athlete commits to Drake

Image

Father-daughter softball coaching duo at Stewartville

Image

RCTC scholarship donation

Image

Aaron's Evening Forecast (5/10/21)

Image

Construction season begins in Rochester

Image

Sean's Weather 5/10

Image

Kasson State Theatre trying to bounce back during the pandemic

Image

Celebrating Mother's Day

Image

Bruins chasing last playoff spot

Image

USA Curling Headquarters moving to Minnesota

Community Events