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Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and other House Democrats spaced for social distancing, speaks during a news conference on the House East Front Steps on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2020, ahead of the House vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Image via AP.

Federal

Once again, Congress unable to act during national trauma

Despite initial optimist, police reform looks stalled for now.

For a moment, Congress had a chance to act on a policing overhaul, mobilized by a national trauma and overwhelming public support. Those efforts have stalled now and seem unlikely to be revived in an election year.

It’s latest example of how partisanship and polarization on Capitol Hill have hamstrung Congress’ ability to meet the moment and respond meaningfully to public opinion.

Major changes in policing policy appear likely to join gun control and immigration as social issues where even with Americans’ overwhelming support, their elected representatives are unable or unwilling to go along, especially when President Donald Trump is indifferent or opposed.

“In this moment, as it was with gun violence and immigration reform, we don’t know where the president really is,” said Sen. Chris Coons, who weeks ago was expressing skepticism weeks ago about a breakthrough. “If this were the first time we were in this situation, I’d be more hopeful,” the Delaware Democrat said then.

The bipartisan outcry over the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans appeared to be a chance for Congress to reshape its reputation. Polls showed nearly all Americans in a favor of some measure of change to the criminal justice system, and both chambers moved quickly to draft legislation.

There were common elements in the House Democratic proposal and the Senate Republican bill, including a national database of use-of-force incidents by law enforcement and restrictions on police chokeholds. But efforts to bridge the divides bogged down in a predictable fight over process and exposed again how little trust there is between the Senate’s leaders, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.

McConnell said Democrats refused to take him at his word that he was willing to negotiate over the final bill, and he pitched a supposedly fair and freewheeling floor debate. Schumer, of New York, and other Democrats saw little that was genuine in McConnell’s overtures, noting that during his tenure as GOP leader, the sharp-elbowed Kentucky Republican has permitted almost no open floor debate on legislation.

The swift rise and fall of prospects for the police bill showed how lawmakers are often driven more by the views of their parties’ hard-liners than overall public opinion.

“The incentive structure is misaligned for compromise. That’s the reality of it. Members are more likely to be rewarded electorally for representing their base primary voters than for reaching out to voters in the middle,” said Michael Steel, who was a top aide to former House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “The giants of yesteryear are remembered as such because voters rewarded them for successfully legislating. And that just seems to be less and less the case.”

Public support for some kind of policing overhaul after Floyd’s death is overwhelming. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows 29% of Americans say the criminal justice system needs a complete overhaul, 40% say it needs major changes and 25% say it needs minor changes.

There are other high-profile examples where public support has been unable to overcome partisanship in Congress — most notably on gun control. An AP-NORC survey from March 2019 found 83% of Americans in favor of a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers. Trump has also supported the idea.

But gun control legislation has gone nowhere in Washington.

The parties have also failed to make progress in overhauling immigration laws, despite broad public support. The most overwhelmingly popular measure — granting legal protections to young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children — has gotten caught in the fray, with hundreds of thousands of such “Dreamer” immigrants caught in legal limbo.

This gridlock has been exacerbated by Trump’s reputation on Capitol Hill as an unreliable negotiating partner on major issues. On policing, he spoke generally about supporting legislation but exerted little political capital when the process hit a roadblock.

“To do really hard things you always need a president leaning in and engaged,” said Brendan Buck, a top aide to former Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, during Trump’s first two years in office. “And on the really hard things he has not shown a willingness to get engaged.”

The police debate also suffered from the realities of the political calendar. With the Congressional Black Caucus, progressive activists and the civil rights community all calling the Republican bill too weak to be salvaged, some Democrats saw little incentive to give ground now when they might be able to get more if their party has sweeping successes in the November elections, now just over four months away.

“Why cut a bad deal now when you could potentially be in the driver’s seat to write a real bill that effects real change in just a few months?” said Matt House, a former Schumer aide.

Some veteran lawmakers have found ways to navigate the fierce partisanship on Capitol Hill.

GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the committee’s top Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington, have shepherded a major education policy rewrite and legislation to combat opioids through a McConnell-led Senate. They did so by building sweeping consensus among lawmakers in both parties before committee or floor action.

Murray said in an interview that there was little attempt to do that kind of behind-the-scenes work on policing.

“This didn’t even smell like an attempt to get something done,” Murray said. “The feeling that you want to accomplish something, that you want to get something done … is a very different feeling than we saw with policing reform.”

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Reprinted with permission from The Associated Press.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. S.B. Anthony

    June 27, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    And the fat Fake Deal Maker fiddles while the country burns.

    • Mel Thomas

      June 27, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      So of course it’s Trump fault because of a democrat congress inability to function? LOL

  2. Mel Thomas

    June 27, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    How do you like Democrat Socialism? just like the third world isn’t it. Democrat Governor’s & Mayors ordering Police to stand down while the city is looted, burned. citizens beaten in the streets, monuments destroyed, police stations actually taken over and allowed to be occupied. Antifa and BLM are the criminals behind this. Below are those in sympathy with Antifa and BLM.
    What do these Mayors & Governors have in common?
    Tom Wolf (Gov PA), Jim Kenney (Mayor Philadelphia), JB Pritzker (Gov Il), Lori Lightfoot (Mayor Chicago), Gavin Newsom (Gov CA) Kate Brown (Gov OR), Ted Wheeler (Mayor Portland OR), Jay Inslee (Gov WA), Jenny Durkan (Mayor Seattle), Andrew Cuomo (Gov NY), Bill Di Blasio, (Mayor NY) Tim Walz (Gov MN) Jacob Frey (Mayor MN), Lyda Krewson (Mayor St. Louis), Gretchen Whitmer (Gov MI), Mike Duggan (Mayor Detroit) , Keisha Bottoms (Mayor Atlanta GA)
    All are Democrats who kept the economy in their states and cities closed as long as they could (many still are) and ordered Police in their cities to stand down allowing the destruction.
    There is no moderate wing of the Democrat party people and they really don’t care about taxpayers except for their vote. If you vote for Joe Biden, you are voting for Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren’s far left platform.. Joe will follow the radical left’s agenda or Joe won’t get the support (and he is of) Nancy Pelosi, Val Demings, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Valerie Jarrett,. Rashida Talib, Stacy Abrams, Ayanna Pressley, Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, Tom Perez, Maxine Waters, Al Green, and llhan Omar.
    This is the core of the socialists leftist wing of the Democrat party and are firmly in charge.
    Democrat Platform & Goals:
    (Democrats want to make this election all about the hate for President Trump. NOT their platform & Goals for obvious reasons.
    At least know who & what you are voting for. Do you know the Democrats goals? here it is.
    *End all deportations of illegal aliens, if you get here, you stay. Bernie’s website calls it a “moratorium” on deportations.
    *Citizenship for 20 to 50 million illegal aliens, DACA & TPS recipients with a cost of billions.
    *Massive tax increases. All Democrat candidates have committed to tax increases of various amounts.
    *Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Green new deal.(which would create massive unemployment, 100,000 jobs estimated in the transportation industry alone.) Joe Biden supports.
    *De-fund & terminate border patrol & ICE.
    *Free Healthcare for Illegal aliens, DACA, TPS recipients (taxpayer funded with one estimate at 52 trillion)
    *Ending of all private / employer based health care. “Medicare for all”, Feds run everything.
    *Illegal Aliens eligible for welfare & food stamps. (Elizabeth Warrens plan adopted)
    *Reparations for race’s harmed by Caucasians. Joe Biden committed to “Reverend” Al Sharpton’s support for Sheila Jackson Lee’s racist reparations bill in the House. Basically a tax will be levied on all Caucasians in America. (you can’t make this stuff up)
    *Sanctuary Cities & States. Joe Biden supports sanctuary cities.
    *Free college for all, including illegal aliens (taxpayer funded estimates in the billions. Bernie Sanders plan adopted.
    *Decriminalization of illegal entry into our country.
    *Open Borders.
    *Drivers Licenses for illegal aliens (already happening in states with Democrat leadership.
    *Late term abortions up to 9 months.
    *Ending of all private / employer based health care. “Medicare for all”, Feds run everything.

    *Destruction and erasing our history.

    I’m sure this will stir the pot: if you’re not happy with the monume

  3. Sonja Fitch

    June 28, 2020 at 5:35 am

    The goptrump cult sociopath racist sexist liar leader trump is criminally negligent!!!!!! Trump is hiding in his bunker! Pence has lost that “pious proof” persona!! Vote out the goptrump cult!!!!!!

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