WASHINGTON, D.C. — Calls for justice following the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement have challenged Congress to come up with policies to address systemic racism and police reform. However, Democrats and Republicans remain at odds on the best path forward.
Wednesday, Senate Democrats blocked the GOP reform bill from advancing on the Senate floor.
On its face, the JUSTICE Act led by Senate Republicans and the Justice in Policing Act crafted by House Democrats appear similar. Both bills call for reporting requirements on the use of force from police agencies, more training and the establishment of lynching as a federal crime.
"It's a straightforward plan based on facts, on data and lived experience," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
"I for one do not intend to be played," said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
But when you dig into the bill's text, the differences are significant.
The House bill's language banning chokeholds is absolute, while the Senate version defines chokeholds more broadly. Democrats are also looking to upend qualified immunity to allow victims of police violence to sue officers. Senate Republicans say the controversial policy can be dealt with through separate legislation.
"There is a dramatic difference. It will not report up racial biases and disparate treatment of Blacks or Latinos," said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Another key difference comes on the issue of no-knock warrants like the one used by Louisville police in the death of Breonna Taylor. The House bill moves to ban no-knock warrants in federal drug cases outright, while Sen. Tim Scott's (R-SC) bill tells agencies to report their use of these warrants.
"I have experienced your pain, stopped eighteen times in the last two decades, in one year seven times as an elected official," he said on the Senate floor Wednesday before the measure failed to move.
Senate Republicans are continuing to call on Democrats to debate the JUSTICE Act, arguing Democrats can add amendments.
A House vote on policing is expected Thursday.