The U.S. House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act for the second time on Wednesday, the most ambitious police reform effort in decades.
The sweeping legislation would ban strangles and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement and create national standards for law enforcement with the aim of enhancing accountability. Nine months after Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by Minneapolis police, lawmakers voted to approve the reform bill that bears his name 220-212, in the party sense. However, the only Republican who voted for said he had done so in error and changed the official record to reflect his opposition.
The House passed a version of the bill last year, but the Republican-controlled Senate never took it up. This time around, the Democrats have the support of the White House and a slight advantage in the Senate. But they’ll have to convince at least 10 Republican senators to get over a filibuster and pass the measure – which is unlikely.
The bill includes bans on so-called qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement from certain prosecution, and is one of the key provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with Republican senators.
Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that without these legal protections, fear of prosecution would prevent people from becoming police – even though the measure allows such prosecutions only against law enforcement agencies. law enforcement, rather than against all officials.
California MP Karen Bass, who drafted the bill, called the provisions limiting qualified immunity and relaxing prosecution standards “the only measures that hold the police accountable, which will actually reduce the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape. ”
She also acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November, and could possibly see them again, when the re-election campaign of former Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans hit the airwaves with images of cities. on fire across the country.
But Bass said these attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are based on racism, sparking fears about how “creepy black people are going to attack you if you try to contain the police.” .
“It’s as old as apple pie in our history,” she says. “So aren’t you taking action because of this?”
Still, she admitted changes are likely to occur if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes she will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50. Bass said she had been in contact with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the chamber, and that she was confident he would help support the GOP.
Scott said this week that the sticking points in the legislation were qualified immunity and prosecution standards and that in both areas “we need to protect individual officers.”
“It’s a red line for me,” Scott said, adding “I hope we find something that actually works.”