Senate Democrats Threaten To Block Gop Police Bill


Senate Democrats are strongly signaling they will filibuster Republicans’ police reform bill later this week absent more concessions from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican set the Senate on a path to consider the legislation on Wednesday and must lure at least seven Democrats to support even opening debate on a GOP bill written without any Democratic input. So far, few Democrats have expressed any interest.

“If nothing changes, I’m voting no. I need some assurances that we’re going to vote on amendments that will fix this bill. And it needs a lot of fixing,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a centrist whom Republicans would conceivably need to cobble together the requisite 60 votes.

Both parties raced to put together legislation in response to George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police and the nationwide protests that followed. But they do not seem to be in a mood to compromise in the middle of a pandemic and with an election in a little more than four months.

Democrats oppose the legislation written by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S. C.) as inadequate, saying it lacks the strong federal orders needed to spur police departments to change their actions on racial profiling and use of force. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the GOP bill “deeply and fundamentally flawed” on Monday.

But Democrats also say they can’t support advancing the bill without promises from McConnell that they will get votes on amendments to impose more police oversight. So, while Schumer and McConnell could still work out an agreement on amendment votes that paves the way for arguments on the floor, it’s also possible the police reform debate crashes and burns in the Senate before it even gets off the ground.

“There’s no clarity in what we’re being offered by Sen. McConnell,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “I’ve faced similar Sen. McConnell offers in the past, on [coronavirus legislation], and the best thing that happened is we didn’t accept his offer. We demanded a bipartisan approach.”

So far, there have been few substantive bipartisan negotiations on a compromise bill. McConnell said Monday, “For anyone who actually wants to legislate, it shouldn’t be a difficult call” to advance the bill.

“I’m not going to vote on a half-ass bill.”

Filibustering the legislation isn’t without risks for Democrats. Schumer and his party had urged McConnell to hold a police reform debate in the wake of Floyd’s killing, and they could invite criticism for not trying to improve the GOP bill and instead voting it down.

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