This is how the Senate police reform law stalled in political purgatory

Police reform was carried out even before it began in the United States Senate.

It quickly became clear early last week that Democratic senators were never going to allow the Senate to initiate debate on a police reform bill drafted by Senator Tim Scott, RS.C. Democrats viewed the legislation as partisan. A senior Democrat source characterized the move as a “hollow” effort to curb police abuse.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., never formally trained its members to block Scott’s bill.

He did not have to.

“The Republican bill does nothing, nothing, to reform the ‘use of force’ standard,” Schumer said in the Senate Monday afternoon. “Nothing, nothing about qualified immunity. Nothing about racial profiling. “

Schumer warned senators about the Democratic resistance to Scott’s legislation.

FILE – In this April 21, 2020, file photo, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate will resume on Monday, May 4. (AP Photo / Patrick Semansky, File)


“If we pass a bill that is not effective and the killings continue and the police departments resist change and there is no responsibility, the wound in our society will not close. It will ooze, ”argued Schumer. “It really is a matter of life and death.”

Schumer later accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, of creating “a dead end from which legislation cannot arise.” The New York Democrat called Scott’s bill “irrevocably flawed.”

Here is the process that killed the police reform:

The Senate is known for its “unlimited debate.” But there is a way to avoid that debate: to do something called “invoke coagulation.” Cloture stops the debate and allows the Senate to end certain legislation. Otherwise, a debate can go on indefinitely. A closing vote to end the debate on the legislation requires 60 years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. Steps away from the microphone as he talks to reporters after the weekly Republican politics luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. Steps away from the microphone as he talks to reporters after the weekly Republican politics luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

Most Senate bills are subject to two closing rounds. There is a vote at the end to end all debate on a bill. But, that “unlimited debate” also applies on the front, too. The Senate simply cannot automatically jump to a bill, unless all senators agree. If a senator or a group of senators delay things, the Senate must vote to “proceed to the bill.” Otherwise, the debate, just to get to the debate, is stagnant. The debate on the debate is also unlimited.

McConnell knew that Democrats had reservations about Scott’s legislation. McConnell set up the trial vote to proceed to Scott’s count for Wednesday. The Kentucky Republican was essentially challenging Democrats to prevent the Senate from starting debate on the bill.

In the end, the vote was 55-45 to end the debate. Five votes less than the 60-vote threshold to trigger the debate.

McConnell actually voted yes initially to start the debate. But he changed his vote in the end to be on the “prevailing side” of the issue: the negative. The Senate allows members to request a new vote on an issue if they cast their vote on the winning side. Therefore, McConnell could re-invoke the bill, if there is any movement in police reform.

But that was for a legislative solution to police abuse on Capitol Hill.

Still, the next day, the House of Representatives passed its own police reform legislation, 236-181. The 233 Democrats were yes. There were also three Republican years: Representatives Fred Upton, R-Mich., Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.

The House measure was similar to the package Scott wrote. But, as Schumer noted, the bills diverged. Senate legislation did not directly prohibit bottlenecks. It did not limit the “qualified immunity” that protects officers from civil and criminal penalties. It was not as far as the House wanted to establish a database to track corrupt officers.


“The Senate bill is a false and bogus reform,” said Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler, DN.Y. “He gestures. Use some of the same words. But it doesn’t do anything real.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, even said she would be willing to send the House Democrats bill to a House / Senate conference committee. That’s where the parties negotiate the different bills passed by both houses and try to counterfeit a final combined bill.

But that won’t be an option as long as the Senate can’t pass a bill. That is why Pelosi’s statement cost him little political capital. And, Democrats could play to their base, noting that the Democratic House passed a police reform measure and the Senate could not, even if the Democrats torpedoed the measure in the Senate.

How many times have we seen this before on a major topic of the day?

Consider the energy for years after each mass shooting. The Long Island Rail Road shooting in 1993. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Landscape modeling. Las Vegas.

There are protests. There is noise. There are press conferences.

Rep. Will Hurd, Republican of Texas.

And Congress has not passed a gun law of any consequence in years.

How about the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare? That’s pretty much every Republican campaigned for years. However, Republicans were rejected by the Supreme Court and never presented a bill to repeal and replace the law in Congress.

Still, there was all kinds of noise and energy about setting ObamaCare on fire. Some of that continues today as the Trump administration tries once again to get the Supreme Court to end ObamaCare once and for all.

And so, police reform now enters the same political purgatory. Lots of political oxygen. But the issue is stagnant in Congress.

However, the protests after George Floyd were different. Sure, there were protests on the streets of Philadelphia and New York. But there were even days of conflagration between protesters and against Black Lives Matter protesters, in little Bethel, Ohio, a city of 2,000 people, 35 minutes east of Cincinnati.


It is one thing for protests to resonate in big cities. But the resonance in Bethel, Ohio says a lot.

“People are not on the streets singing: ‘We want more data! We want more data! ‘”Senator Cory Booker, DN.J., thundered on the floor of the Senate. “The bill that Leader McConnell wants to put on the floor is called the Justice Act. It denies its name because it does not even serve as a starting point or as a starting point for negotiations. ”

This was ironic, because to start negotiations, both the House and the Senate must pass bills to participate in a conference committee. But Democrats hastily short-circuited that effort, blocking the Senate from even starting the debate.

Of course, it may be natural for Democrats to prefer police reform to be an “electoral problem.” The Republican-run Senate has already been portrayed as a “legislative graveyard,” even if the Senate Democrats were the ones who buried the Republican police bill. Democrats believe they have a good chance to gain control of the Senate this fall. So if the political winds blow their way, Democrats think they can write and draft their own unified bill and push it through the Democratic House and Senate next year.

But if Democrats control the Senate in 2021 and try to push through a police reform bill, here is one thing that is almost certain: Democrats are unlikely to have 60 votes.

Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)

Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)

Forty-seven senators are currently meeting with Democrats. Democrats only need a net four-seat victory to control the Senate by 2021. If Democrats take over the table, filling current Democratic seats, defeating vulnerable senators ranging from Senators Martha McSally, R-Ariz., To Thom Tillis, RN.C., and even taking down McConnell, the Democrats will likely only have 56 seats at best. There are four less than 60 to turn off a filibuster. And it is very possible that Senate Republicans could return the favor, blocking a possible motion to proceed with a police reform bill drawn up by Booker and Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California.

That is why it is difficult to see how police reform emerges from political purgatory, perhaps mired there with other radioactive problems such as abortion, weapons, and the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare.


“This has been a brutal summer,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, said as the House debated his bill Thursday. “And it’s only June.”

There may be more demonstrations on the streets. More clashes with the police. Shouts to dismiss the police. But a legislative solution can be hard to come by on Capitol Hill as long as parliamentary math doesn’t work.

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