Senate GOP police reform bill facing gridlock ahead of vote

With no breakthrough in sight, the Senate appears to be headed toward an impasse on police reform.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned on the eve of Wednesday’s scheduled vote on that Democrats would block the proposal brought up by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lone Republican black senator who is leading on the GOP’s police reform legislation.

“The bill, as has been outlined by my colleagues, is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed. It will never get 60 votes in the Senate … It is a cul-de-sac cynically designed by Leader McConnell so that he can say that he can do something but do nothing,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Schumer, along with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), penned a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday urging that he “bring meaningful legislation to the floor for a vote,” denouncing the Republican proposal as “not salvageable.”

The letter argues that Scott’s bill cannot simply be amended, something McConnell had argued could be allowed if Democrats were willing to advance the package.

“We will not meet this moment by holding a floor vote on the JUSTICE Act, nor can we simply amend this bill, which is so threadbare and lacking in substance that it does not even provide a proper baseline for negotiations,” the letter reads.

“This bill is not salvageable and we need bipartisan talks to get to a constructive starting point.”

Scott, has proposed incentivizing police departments to ban chokeholds, but not mandating that the practice be abolished. The bill also does not remove qualified immunity, the doctrine that shields law enforcement officers from personal liability.

The proposal with Democrats’ backing would ban chokeholds and no-knock drug warrants for federal drug cases, as well as end qualified immunity, a red line for Republicans.

With the GOP in control of the Senate, Harris and Booker, who were leading on the Democrats’ package, were forced to decide whether to make a deal with Scott on compromise legislation.

As a major contender to be presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, however, that came with some political risks for Harris.

If Harris decides to work with Scott on a compromise bill, it could put her at risk for criticism from the left, should she end up backing a bill that police reform groups argue does not go far enough.

In terms of negotiating on a compromise bill, The Hill reports that Booker and Scott have been in regular contact in recent days.

Harris, meanwhile, has not had any direct conversations with the South Carolina Republican, another sign of her disinterest in the GOP proposal.

“He and I have been playing phone tag since I think the first time I called him was Friday of last week,” Harris told the outlet.

The vice presidential hopeful went on to say that Scott’s bill “doesn’t meet the moment, and I urge him to adopt our bill as a much more relevant opportunity to correct what’s wrong with the system.”

Despite talking regularly to Scott, Booker indicated to the outlet that he wouldn’t make a deal with the GOP senator without Harris’ backing.

“Kamala’s my full partner on this and so we are locked in. Kamala and I are open and communicating and we are doing this together,” he said.

Harris stands by not backing Scott’s legislation in order to open debate, saying Tuesday, “Don’t let anyone dare suggest we are standing in the way of progress.”

“Let us all be clear about what is happening in the politics of this moment: the Republican bill has been thrown out to give lip service to an issue with nothing substantial in it that would have saved any of those lives.”

Senate Republicans will need 60 votes to advance Scott’s bill to debate, which appears unlikely at this point.

Originally, Senate GOP leadership planned to hold a vote after the July 4 recess on Scott’s bill, but bumped it up to be able to vote before leaving as protests swept the nation in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer.

As a result, Scott’s legislation was brought directly to the floor instead of going through the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it could have been debated and Democrats would have had the chance to offer amendments.

For Scott, he does not want to wait for this moment to pass to vote on the package, regardless of whether the bill fails.

Speaking to Politico last week, he said, “Without the bill becoming law — whether it’s my bill or some other version of some other bill — then we’ve kind of failed the moment. Us waiting a month before we vote is a bad decision. So I hope we are willing to take up legislation and just get on the record. If it fails, it fails.”

A spokesperson for Harris did not respond to The Post’s request for comment on her communications with Scott.

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) weighed in with her thoughts on the bill being offered by Republicans in no uncertain terms.

“We’re saying no chokeholds. They’re not saying no chokeholds. I mean, there’s a big difference there. What’s the compromise? Some chokeholds? I don’t see what the compromise is,” Pelosi told CBS News Radio Tuesday.

“For something to happen, they’re going to have to face the reality of police brutality, the reality of the need for justice in policing, and the recognition that there are many, many good people in law enforcement, but not all and that we have to address those concerns.”

“So far they’re trying to get away with murder, actually. The murder of George Floyd,” the top House Democrat said.

A Republican National Committee spokesperson denounced the remarks and demanded an apology, but Pelosi’s team held firm.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill took to Twitter to respond to controversy over the comments, arguing that the Speaker was referring to McConnell, who he called the “self-proclaimed Grim Reaper.”

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