Congressional negotiators seeking a path forward on legislation aimed at overhauling the nation’s policing laws announced Thursday they’ve “reached agreement on a framework” for the package but said talks will continue over the next few weeks.
The announcement came on the day before the Senate leaves for its two-week July Fourth recess, and negotiators had publicly set a deadline to make progress before the end of the month in order for talks to continue. Still, the announcement from Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chief Republican negotiator, and Democratic lead negotiators Reps. Karen Bass of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey did not have many details about what the framework entailed.
“After months of working in good faith, we have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform,” the three lawmakers said in a joint statement. “There is still more work to be done on the final bill, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Over the next few weeks we look forward to continuing our work toward getting a finalized proposal across the finish line.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday evening that President Joe Biden is “grateful to Rep. Bass, Sen. Booker, and Sen. Scott for all of their hard work on police reform” and “looks forward to collaborating with them on the path ahead.”
Despite the rosy assessment in their joint statement, the key negotiators have a long way to go before reaching a deal, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN, and it’s far from clear that one will materialize, much less get through Congress.
Scott said last month that it was “June or bust” when it came to getting a deal. The other negotiators had also said they wanted to see a framework by the end of this month.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, also a Republican from South Carolina, had told CNN he hoped to announce an agreement to a framework by Thursday. But Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said negotiations could extend beyond this week even though a deal is “within our reach.”
Scott had told reporters Wednesday the group is now just focused on language.
“We’re gonna have to now check the definitions and the language that we’re all putting on paper and make sure that we’re all saying the exact same thing, but I don’t think there’s outstanding issues that need to be worked out, we just need to agree on the actual language we’re using,” Scott said.
But Durbin had a different view.
“We felt that way several days ago but then when you get the staff in the room, they need to have pretty explicit instructions as to what we agreed on so we have to ask a few more questions answer before we can reach that point,” Durbin said.
Bass had said Wednesday, “You know that things can come together very quickly at the last minute and that tends to be what happens, so that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Asked if she believed the prospect of getting a deal done was looking more precarious, Bass had told CNN, “I do, and that’s only because of time. I mean the question is, the Senate is going out for two weeks. Senator Scott has said June or bust, which I appreciated, I was glad he did that. So, the question will be what happens in the next 24 hours. I just don’t know.”
What’s holding up the talks? Depends on whom you ask. But Republicans have been wary of Democratic demands to weaken legal protections police currently enjoy from civil lawsuits and to make it easier to file criminal charges against police officers.
“I think the law enforcement is under assault in that country through the defund the police effort,” said Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn. “Recruitments are down, retirements are up. And I think there’s a lot of reluctance on the part of law enforcement to perform their duties and keep our community safe because of the second guessing that goes on later.”
But Republicans have placed their faith in Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, in negotiating potential changes to the legal doctrine known as qualified immunity and Section 242.
“I have confidence in Senator Scott,” Cornyn said. “I look forward to seeing what they come up with.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Donald Judd, Paul LeBlanc and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.