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As Congress leaves town, hopes for police reforms fade

Jennifer Haberkorn and Elliot Wailoo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- After George Floyd's death in police custody, both Republicans and Democrats immediately wrote bills to change policing practices, sparking hope that they would overcome the partisanship gripping most policy debates to enact meaningful legislation.

But as lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week recess, the parties are locked in a bitter standoff with no meaningful negotiations planned and little hope of finding compromise as time on the legislative calendar grows short.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who led the effort for the House Democrats' bill, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who did the same for Senate Republicans' version, have continued to talk since the House approved its measure, 236-181, and Democrats blocked the Senate bill last week.

But there's "nothing formal happening right now," Bass said. Any talks are "just very informal."

Bass expressed optimism, however, that lawmakers can find a way to push the legislation forward. She noted that some Republicans have shown interest in revisiting her legislation, which all but three Republicans opposed last week, while efforts are underway to pressure the Senate to take up the House bill.

"The movement for justice will not stop until the bill is passed in the Senate and signed by the president," Bass said Wednesday. She spoke even as the Congressional Black Caucus turned its focus to a broader effort to end systemic racism through a series of bills that include proposed reparations for slavery.


An aide to Scott confirmed that the senator, who is the only African American Republican in the Senate, will continue the discussions. "We are not giving up, and will see where conversations over the next couple of weeks lead," the aide said.

Privately, however, lawmakers and aides in both parties expressed little hope that compromise can be reached quickly, if at all.

Hundreds of bills approved by the Democratic-led House languish in the Republican-controlled Senate. The level of bipartisan and biracial furor over Floyd's death in Minneapolis, after numerous deaths of other Black men in encounters with police nationwide, had led many Democrats and some Republicans to hope that on policing reforms they could surmount that partisan paralysis. But that hope quickly dissolved. Democrats dismissed Republicans' proposals as window dressing, Republicans accused Democrats of federal overreach and President Donald Trump threatened to veto the House bill.

Significant policy disputes emerged over banning chokeholds by law enforcement and whether people should be able to sue police officers if they believe their civil rights have been violated.


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