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Senate Democrats Block Debate on GOP Police Reform Bill

Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) speaks about his new police reform bill during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 17, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

The Republican police reform bill stalled in the Senate on Wednesday after Senate Democrats voted against starting debate on the measure and demanded bipartisan talks.

Senators voted 55-to-45 in a procedural vote on whether to initiate debate on the police reform bill, leaving. Republicans short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black Republican, led his party in introducing the bill and urged Democrats to vote in favor of starting debate even if they disagreed with elements of the measure.

“If you don’t think we’re right, make it better. Don’t walk way,” Scott said in advance of the vote. “Vote for the motion to proceed so that we have an opportunity to deal with this very real threat to the America that is civil, that is balanced.”

Democrats, however, argued that Scott’s proposed police reforms do not go far enough in the wake of calls to reform police departments across the nation after the police custody death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded for air.

The GOP bill would restrict the use of choke holds by withholding federal funds from departments that continue to allow the practice. It would also increase funding for police body cameras and create a national database to record police use of force incidents, as well as leverage grants to incentivize police departments to inform the FBI when the use of force leads to serious injury or death. The bill would also include a separate bill to make lynching a federal hate crime.

Democrats in both legislative chambers have proposed their own sweeping reforms, including a push to end “qualified immunity,” which protects police officers from lawsuits. That proposal was met with opposition from Republicans.

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