Despite protests demanding change in the police forces across the nation, this week saw a partisan standoff in Congress.
Republicans in the Senate wanted a vote on Wednesday for their Justice Act, introduced June 17 by the lone Black republican there, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), while the House of Representatives vote on the Justice in Policing Act Thursday.
The Senate vote failed 55-45 Wednesday. Sixty votes were needed to advance the bill.
According to the Congressional Research Service’s “Legal Sidebar,” which is prepared for members and committees of congress, the two bills had key similarities and differences.
The Justice in Policing act would require states or localities that received certain federal funding to enact laws banning all uses of chokeholds and carotid holds by law enforcement officers. The use of these maneuvers based on race would be criminalized. Deadly force—“force that creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury”— is a last resort to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury.
The Justice act would have prohibited the use of chokeholds except when deadly force is authorized. It would also require reporting of incidents involving law enforcement uses of force.
Both bills seek to address concerns related to the use of no-knock warrants, but the Justice in Policing Act would impose or encourage direct legal limits on the practice, While the Justice act would instead seek to gather data on the use of no-knock warrants.
The Justice in Policing Act would limit the transfer of certain military-grade equipment (primarily weapons and vehicles designed for combat) to state and local law enforcement.
The Justice Act would have created two commissions to investigate issues and propose reforms in areas related to law enforcement oversight.
On Tuesday, democrats demanded that Senate Majoirty Leader Mitch McConnell pull the Justice Act and open bipartisan negotiations toward a compromise.
“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. This bill is not salvageable and we need bipartisan talks to get to a constructive starting point,” wrote Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate’s two Black Democrats —Kamala Harris of California and New Jersey’s Cory Booker in a letter to McConnell before the Wednesday vote.
Harris slammed Senate Republicans on their proposal to address police brutality, calling it an “attempt to obstruct real progress and real justice.”
“The Republican proposal was carefully crafted to deflect from real change by merely—as my colleague Senator Booker outlined, Senator Schumer outlined—by merely offering to study the problem without doing anything to solve it,” said Harris. “That’s empty.”