US House Democrats Pass Police Funding Bill Despite Reluctance – National

House Democrats pushed through a long-awaited policing and public safety package on Thursday after overcoming internal differences over legislation they want to focus on for their election year.

The package of four bills passed consecutively – all with bipartisan support – and went to the Senate, where their fate is uncertain.

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The Democrats’ success came after party leaders wrestled for hours with progressives who threatened to block the package over concerns about increasing money for local police departments. Some lawmakers said the plan lacked the accountability measures Democrats once called for after the police killing of George Floyd sparked protests over racial injustice in Minneapolis.

The House of Representatives eventually approved the money, including for departments with fewer than 125 officers, and aid for de-escalation training and mental health services. A key goal is to reduce fatal encounters between police and people with mental illness.

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Other parts of the package would provide money for increased community violence intervention – a priority for progressives – and technology investments to help local investigators close unsolved cases, particularly those involving gun crimes.

“The bottom line is that you cannot short-cut or thwart the journey toward safer communities and better policing,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., one of the negotiators. “It’s about investing to protect. We must always have the backs of those who risked their lives every day to protect us.”

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Despite opposition from some liberals, there was support from leading progressive MPs Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Ilhan Omar D-Minn., who had negotiated with Gottheimer, a moderate.

Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chair of the Democratic Caucus, moderated a series of talks after it was clear over the past few days that progress can be made.

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After a deal was announced Wednesday, Democratic leaders moved quickly to put the bills to a vote.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve been able to do here together as Democrats with different ideologies,” Omar told reporters. “And I think that hopefully this is the beginning of a process that we can further participate in.”

To get more liberals on board, language has been included that will allow the Justice Department to exercise its discretion in deciding which police departments are allowed to receive the grants. It would also allocate departments to use one of the $60 million approved for data collection on police practices and community safety.

A police package passed in the House of Representatives in March 2021 went much further, including banning police strangleholds and changing so-called qualified immunity for prosecution, which would make it easier to prosecute allegations of police misconduct.

None of these provisions were included this time.

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Rep. Cori Bush, who rose to prominence as an activist leader after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, said the current funding bill does little to address “the crisis of police brutality.”

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“Even the simplest accountability measures” passed last year did not make it into the new package, Bush said in a statement.

Despite these internal divisions, the bills garnered some Republican support. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., a co-sponsor of Gottheimer’s funding bill, spent time on the ground Thursday urging other Republicans to join him in supporting it.

“This is for our law enforcement officers and wives. It’s for these small agencies,” said Rutherford, a former Jacksonville sheriff. “We have to be able to help them. And I can tell you that over the past 2 1/2 years, law enforcement has been more demoralized than I’ve ever seen.”

In the end, more than 140 Republicans voted in favor of this law.

But other Republicans called the Democrats’ package a last-ditch effort to win over voters in November’s election.

“Democrats are putting these bills out today because we are 46 days from a midterm election,” Rep. Pete Stauber told R-Minn. “They want the American people to suddenly and miraculously believe they care about the crime crisis plaguing our nation.”

Associated Press reporter Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

© 2022 The Canadian Press US House Democrats Pass Police Funding Bill Despite Reluctance – National


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