House Takes Up Police Reform Bill A Day After Senate's Version Is Blocked
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We have been here before. Tragedy strikes. Democrats and Republicans say something must be done, laws must change - and then they don't. The killing of George Floyd sparked a movement. Americans across this country are calling for police reform. Both parties came up with their own proposals. And neither is likely to succeed.
Senate Democrats blocked the GOP bill yesterday, arguing that it failed to meet the moment. The House is expected to pass legislation. But it's just drafted by Democrats. And hopes for the divided Congress to come together are fading. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins us now. Good morning, Claudia.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: Let's start in the Senate. What has happened there thus far?
GRISALES: So Democrats said they weren't happy with the lack of bipartisan talks on a GOP-led measure. They had made an offer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a day before the vote to allow these sort of negotiations in exchange for allowing their bill to proceed. But McConnell said he already fast-tracked the bill. He gave Democrats the option to amend it.
And he called the move political nonsense and a last-minute ultimatum used to block Republican progress on the effort. Tim Scott, he's the chamber's lone Black Republican. He sponsored the bill. And he reminded his colleagues George Floyd's death is what brought them together. Let's take a listen.
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TIM SCOTT: His murder is why the country has given us the opportunity to lead, to lead. And my friends on the other side just said, no.
GRISALES: Scott flat out accused Democrats of not wanting to do anything now and punting to November, when they hope to do well in the elections and make progress on their bill then.
MARTIN: OK. So that's the Senate. What about the House? Tell us about the bill that's going to get a vote today.
GRISALES: So this bill was unveiled earlier this month. For Democrats, it bans federal police using chokeholds and other dangerous restraints. That's what they wanted to see in their measure. They think it goes further than the Republican version. It also prohibits no-knock federal warrants and drug-related cases. And it lowers the legal standards to pursue criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct.
The Senate GOP bill, on the other hand, it didn't have the votes to pass on the floor. But in the House, the Democrats can move their bill just with their party. But it's not expected to draw much Republican support. And the GOP says it's dead-on-arrival for the Senate.
MARTIN: So just weeks ago, Claudia, as we suggested at the top, there was some optimism about this moment being a real opportunity to find a way to get something done on police reform. Then both parties retreated to their usual partisan corners. What happened?
GRISALES: So this is a classic congressional story. And especially in these highly partisan times and in an election year, the odds were stacked against a bipartisan compromise. Democrats were betting they're on the right side of this debate. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the vast majority of Americans want bans of chokeholds, for example.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talked to All Things Considered. And he said Americans will trust civil rights organizations, will trust their position over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. So clearly, Democrats think public sentiment will be on their side when this is all said and done.
MARTIN: And President Trump, how much of a factor has he been, just briefly?
GRISALES: Largely an invisible figure. So in terms of progress here, I don't think we're going to hear much more when it comes to this bill.
MARTIN: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. We appreciate it, Claudia.
GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.