The House on Thursday passed Democrats’ police reform bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, by a 236-181 vote. Three Republicans joined Democrats to vote in favor of the bill, which now heads to the Senate.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked over the next steps on police reform. Each party has introduced its own bill. Senate Democrat rejected Republicans’ Justice Act, earlier this week, on the grounds that it wasn’t expansive enough in its policies.
The two parties’ bills were introduced as protesters across the country condemn the police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd and demand measures that address systemic racism and violence by law enforcement.
Both would ramp up the use of body cameras, make lynching a federal crime, and incentivize state and local police departments to ban the use of chokeholds. The Democrats’ bill led by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, is more expansive than Republicans’. It would curb “qualified immunity,” a legal provision that shields police from accountability for misconduct, and impose a ban on both chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level.
The bill incorporates key proposals developed by Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO). The act includes making deadly force a last resort as first proposed in the PEACE Act, legislation authored by Clay and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA). The bill also includes key provisions from the Police Training and Independent Review Act which Clay authored with Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) to improve bias training and require an independent prosecutor in all instances when police use deadly force.
“Our nation has reached an inflection point in our history – demanding change, after four centuries of systemic racism towards African Americans,” Clay said when he addressed the House Floor on Thursday in support of the bill.
He urged members of Congress to “listen and respond to the millions of Americans who want this country to correct course and move towards the Constitution’s promise of ‘equal justice under law.’”
“Your neighbors, friends, children and grandchildren are demanding we pass The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and subsequently move forward – in a comprehensive way – to erase the stain of racism on this nation, existing since Africans were first brought ashore,” Clay said. “This is the moment. History will judge us by our actions today. In the words of Missouri poet Langston Hughes ‘I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me. I too am America.’ As video evidence has clearly shown, African Americans are STILL DUE “All the Rights and Privileges” granted by the 14th Amendment.
Vote Yes on this legislation, to improve the quality of life for people that are as American as anyone of you.”
The Republicans’ legislation, led by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), would not address qualified immunity and does not include a federal chokehold ban.