The bill was drafted by the Congressional Black Caucus last summer and moved the House forward last year in a bipartisan vote that included all Democrats and three Republicans. But it didn’t go anywhere in Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) Senate.
In her pre-vote address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Said the bill “will not erase centuries of systemic racism and excessive policing” or not bring back Floyd, Breonna Taylor or any other black American killed by police. But it will be “a tremendous step” towards stopping the violence and containing the suffering, she said.
“We cannot accept this epidemic of injustice,” Pelosi said. “We cannot remain silent when our most vulnerable and historically marginalized communities… are targeted and sometimes killed. That’s why today, the House will re-pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and send it to the Senate and the President’s Office so that it finally becomes the law of the land.
The bill’s relaunch – and its second pass – comes as the trial approaches former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin. Onlookers recorded Chauvin pinning his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as a group of fellow officers stood nearby. The images sparked outrage that turned into protests across the world amid the pandemic, with many activists calling on lawmakers to “strike off the police.”
Few House Democrats back calls to literally dismantle the police force – despite repeated false claims by House Republicans during Wednesday’s debate that the bill would do just that – but their response to the nationwide protests is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a measure that civil rights leaders have said is just as important as legislation that emerged from the civil rights movement of the 1960s, like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
The bill would ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at all levels while prohibiting federal strangulations and interdiction warrants in federal drug cases. Federal policies would be linked to law enforcement funding for governments at the national and local levels.
The move would also eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, require the collection of data on clashes with police, and create a national police misconduct registry to hold problematic officers dismissed or leaving an agency to account. .
Unlike last summer, Democrats now control the Senate and have an ally in the White House. But the fate of the bill in the Upper House is still uncertain, as Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to send the bill to President Joe Biden’s office.
“We will begin these discussions with the Senate immediately after the passage of the bill,” said Representative Karen Bass (D-California), who introduced the bill in the last Congress on Wednesday morning.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Bass expressed confidence that the bill would attract bipartisan support from Congress and travel to Biden for enactment. She said discussions with Senators including Cory Booker (DN.J.) and Tim Scott (RS.C.) had been underway for weeks.
At a Wednesday night press conference with Democratic leaders and members of the CBC, Bass said many GOP senators thought they could come and support the bill last year, but had “some difficulty. “.
“One of the things that has happened in the past 12 months, however, is that many states have moved forward without us and started to adopt reforms,” she said after the vote. “So this time around, when we sit down to meet, we can talk about reforms that are already in place. … So we have many bases on which to start the discussions, and that is what we plan to do.
Representative Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.) said he was excited about some of the provisions, but acknowledged that there was much more work to be done around police reform.
“We cannot worry about the Senate,” Bowman said in a previous interview. “We in the House are here to do the work of the people. People want police reform. “
In a statement following the passage of the bill, Booker said he was “encouraged” by the bipartisan conversations he was having with senators.
“I believe that comprehensive reform of the police service is an issue that has and will attract bipartisan support,” he said. “We will strive to continue to build a diverse coalition of support behind these reform efforts and to advance policing reform through the Senate. The time to act is now. “
Jury selection for the Floyd case is scheduled to begin Monday.
Maya King and Sarah Ferris contributed reporting.