WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — The Senate’s lone Black Republican has been tasked with leading the GOP effort on a police reform bill.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, will have to win over Republicans, the White House and enough Democrats to turn the legislation into law.
“So what do we do now?,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, asked on the Senate floor.
Alexander’s question has been on the minds of many in Washington following the death of George Floyd in police custody and nationwide protests against police brutality.
“Benjamin Hooks, the former NAACP president from Memphis, said, ‘America is a work in progress. We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go.’ That long way to go will not be as easy as passing laws,” Alexander said. “It will take changing behavior.”
But for Congress, it’s a start. Scott’s legislation includes incentives for police to reduce their use of force and tracking these cases across departments.
“We need a lot more funding more body cameras,” Scott said. “It makes your officer safer, and it makes the suspect safer.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, said he likes the direction Scott is going in. He pointed to a specific ethical policing policy in New Orleans.
“You have the ability, the right to tap him on the shoulder and say, ‘Sarge, I’m new on the job, but you’re out of hand. Let me take over.’ If Minneapolis had had that which New Orleans has, George Floyd would be alive,” Cassidy said.
President Trump announced Thursday he is finalizing an executive order on police reform but did not share many specifics.
“Encourage police departments nationwide to meet the most current professional standards for the use of force,” Trump said.
While Scott plans to introduce his bill next week, Democrats argue their legislation goes much further by banning chokeholds and certain no-knock warrants, and making it easier to sue police.
“It will be passed,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA.
Republicans have found common ground with Democrats on some measures, like federal anti-lynching legislation, but other proposals remain partisan.
Both sides hope to pass a police reform plan by next month.