WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Just one day after blocking the GOP police reform bill in the Senate, Democrats are set to vote on their own plan in the House Thursday evening.
The legislation is expected to pass down party lines, which means it would then have to go to the Senate, where it is not going to receive a warm welcome from Republicans.
“Police should protect and defend us all,” said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN.
That’s why Cooper plans to vote for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to ensure there are not more deaths like Floyd’s in police custody.
“That is torture,” said Cooper, referring to the video of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. “This act is the only act Congress is considering that would actually deal with that.”
The bill includes bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases. It also makes it easier for citizens to sue police for misconduct, something many Republicans reject.
“It should be titled, ‘Trial Lawyers’ Dream Bill,’ because it really just opens the door to individually sue officers,” said Rep. Tim Burchett, R-TN.
“My concern is you put the handcuffs on a little bit too tight or whatever and you end up in civil lawsuits,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-TN.
Burchett and Roe prefer the GOP reform plan Democrats blocked in the Senate Wednesday. It fell five votes shy of being considered.
The JUSTICE Act, sponsored by the Senate’s lone Black Republican, Tim Scott, includes incentives, federal reporting requirements and training to reduce the use of dangerous restraints, like chokeholds, and no-knock warrants.
“There’s really a racial component to the fact that they wouldn’t allow him to bring it up in the Senate,” Burchett said. “Could you imagine if that was a group of Republicans that kept one Black Democrat from bringing up a piece of legislation?”
However, Democrats argue the GOP proposal does not go far enough to address police brutality and racial inequality, and Cooper said the House bill is just a starting point for more negotiations with the Senate.
“This is just the opening inning of this ballgame,” he said.
Both parties’ plans include some of the same provisions, like making lynching a federal crime and creating a national database to track police misconduct, but it is not clear if that will be enough common ground.