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Congress stalls on police overhaul bills, again

Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — The effort to find a compromise on police overhaul legislation officially ran out of steam Wednesday, after months of negotiations failed to reach a version that could overcome Republican opposition to pass the Senate.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, one of three lead negotiators, announced that every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal had been exhausted, and “it remains out of reach right now.”

“The time has come to explore all other options to achieve meaningful and common sense policing reform,” Booker said in a statement, later emphasizing to reporters that his efforts were not ending.

But the announcement all but ends Democrats’ latest push to address law enforcement misconduct and racial bias — which generated nationwide protests in 2020 after a series of high-profile deadly encounters between officers and the public — through a deeply polarized Congress.

Last year, Democrats and Republicans pushed competing bills, then blamed each other when Congress passed nothing.

The Democratic-led House passed its bill in March that included provisions to ban chokeholds by federal officers and end qualified immunity for law enforcement against civil lawsuits, as well as create national standards for policing.

 

California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, the lead sponsor of that bill, has been negotiating with Booker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott on a compromise. The group blew through several deadlines and fought off relentless questioning about whether a deal could ever be reached.

Bass, in a news release, blamed Republicans for being “unwilling to compromise” even after negotiators crafted proposals with law enforcement and activists, some based on executive orders from former presidents.

“We accepted significant compromises, knowing that they would be a tough sell to our community, but still believing that we would be moving the needle forward on this issue,” Bass said. “But every time, more was demanded to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing.”

Bass punted to President Joe Biden and the White House, calling on them to “use the full extent of their constitutionally mandated power to bring about meaningful police reform.”

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