While every corner of the country is demanding a complete overhaul of policing, the president and his party insist on wanting to block the sun with one finger.
In response to the mass protests over the death of George Floyd and the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world, conservatives in the Senate on Wednesday unveiled a police reform bill that would “discourage, but not ban” tactics such as strangling and no-knock orders within police departments.
This is a symbolic slap on the wrist for a problem that affects the country’s communities of color disproportionately.
The Republican proposal, The Washington Post explained, is “a competitive approach” to the broader legislation that House Democrats have put on the table that includes “more directives from Washington.”
“The Republican proposal, which Senate leaders said would be considered on the floor next week, veers away from mandating certain policing practices, as the Democratic plan does,” the Post adds.
The Democrats, for their part, suggest withholding federal funds, demilitarizing the police force, and banning outright the strangulation and excessive violence that killed Floyd and so many others at the hands of law enforcement officials.
Along with other party leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.) promoted the bill last Wednesday as a nonpartisan issue.
“This is about coming together and getting an outcome,” he said.
But for the Democrats, the proposal across the aisle “fell short” of what the public is expecting from their representatives.
“We have a tale of two chambers, a glaring contrast between a strong, comprehensive Democratic bill in the House and a much narrower and much less effective Republican bill in the Senate,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed with the sentiment, and accused the Senate of “inaction.”
“House Democrats hope to work in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that creates meaningful change to end the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality in America,” she said in a statement. “The Senate proposal of studies and reporting without transparency and accountability is inadequate. The Senate’s so-called Justice Act is not action.”
While McConnell will need the support of his Democratic colleagues to pass his proposal, the House of Representatives is expected to swiftly pass the Democratic bill, arguing, in part, that the Republicans’ decision to do something about police violence may not be as real as they claim.
For example, while the new GOP bill would make lynching a federal crime, the House of Representatives had already passed an anti-lynching bill in February that was stopped short by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who called for changes to ensure that lynching charges would not extend to minor injuries.
However, a negotiation between the two parties could lead to a long overdue police reform.
For Holly Harris, president and executive director of the Justice Action Network, the Republican proposal is a “baseline for negotiation,” Politico explained.
“We obviously want a broader package,” Harris said. “The environment is so much more ripe for legislation than it was for the First Step Act.”