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Democrats block Senate GOP police reform bill

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at a press conference June 09, 2020 in Washington, DC. Schumer and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) answered questions related to reforming law enforcement policies in the wake of the death of George Floyd. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

Democrats on Wednesday denied Republicans the votes needed to advance the Senate GOP’s policing reform bill, casting doubt on the future of the effort as thousands of protesters continue to march about George Floyd’s death, police misconduct and excessive use of force.

Sixty votes were needed to bring the GOP-backed Justice Act, sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, up for consideration. The chamber’s 53 Republicans needed support from at least seven Democrats to proceed.

The bill stalled by a vote of 55-45.

Democrats have derided the GOP bill, which focuses heavily on data collection and urging departments to change standards on when force is acceptable, as a watered-down version of their own proposal, with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York saying Wednesday, “(Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell wants to show he’s doing something, and get nothing done.”

“So much of the anger in the country right now is directed at the lack of accountability for police officers who violate Americans’ rights. As far as I can tell, the Republican bill does not even attempt one significant reform — not one — to bring more accountability to police officers who are guilty of misconduct,” Schumer said.

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A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with killing Floyd, an unarmed, handcuffed Black man, by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes. Video of Floyd pleading with the officer to move has spurred a national demand for police reform and accountability that has Congress racing to pass legislation.

McConnell, R-Ky., had offered to allow senators to offer amendments, and questioned why Democrats didn’t try to modify the bill rather than halt it.

“Nobody thought the first offer from the Republican side was going to be the final product that traveled out of the Senate,” McConnell said. “What’s supposed to happen in this body is that we vote or agree to get onto a bill. And then we discuss, debate and amend it until at least 60 senators are satisfied, or it goes nowhere.”

Schumer and the Senate sponsors of a Democratic bill, Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, said too many changes were needed. They said bipartisan negotiations are needed before a bill comes to the Senate floor.

“There should be bipartisan discussions with the object of coming together around a constructive starting point for police reform,” Schumer said before the vote.

The Senate’s next steps aren’t clear. The House is scheduled to vote on the Democrats’ version of a policing reform bill Thursday, a sweeping measure that would make it easier to prosecute officers criminally and file civil lawsuits for misconduct.

The Senate vote came shortly after the Senate approved the 200th judge nominated by President Trump: Cory T. Wilson, of Mississippi, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.

“Following number 200, when we depart this chamber today, there will not be a single circuit court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years,” McConnell said.

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© 2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.