Democratic senators on Monday gave their strongest indications yet they may block the GOP’s police reform bill from coming to the floor, a risky move that could prevent any overhaul measure from being enacted this year over their party’s concerns that the GOP bill is far too weak.
Democrats are demanding clear commitments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they will be able to vote on amendments on the floor. But McConnell has so far said he’d be willing to have an “open” process on the floor but has not specified which amendments would be considered. Democrats are expected to continue to discuss their strategy on Tuesday.
After a Monday afternoon caucus call, Senate Democrats were downbeat about the prospects of the path forward on the bill offered by GOP Sen. Tim Scott, saying far more needs to be changed and contending McConnell had failed to commit to allowing votes on amendments on the floor. Many expected the bill to be blocked since Republicans need at least seven Democratic votes to break a filibuster.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, said Scott’s bill “doesn’t do what we should be doing which is doing honest police reform.”
“The time to talk is before the bill hits the floor … if you really want to do serious work on a serious matter, you ought to be having discussions right now,” she said.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin declined to discuss his party’s strategy, but he pointed to the Democrats’ decision to block McConnell’s initial $2 trillion stimulus plan in March. Afterwards, the two sides cut a deal that Democrats got behind after changes were made to the historic rescue package.
“We faced similar offers in the past — on the CARES Act — and I think the best thing that happened is we didn’t accept his offer and demanded a bipartisan approach to it,” Durbin said.
Moreover, key groups also began to urge their opposition to the plan, including the influential NAACP, which urged senators to block the bill on Wednesday’s procedural vote.
Also on Monday, both Rev. Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump — the attorney representing the family of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who was killed while in Minneapolis custody when an officer knelt on his neck — announced their opposition to the Scott plan.
“The Black Community is tired of the lip service and is shocked that this $7 billion package can be thought of as legislation,” Crump said.
Many Democrats would not say if they would vote against proceeding to the bill, even as they were uncertain how they would get to a “yes” vote on Wednesday.
- New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a lead author of the Democrats’ bill, would not say Monday if he would vote to advance the Scott bill. “We’re having a lot of conversation,” Booker said. “I think there are a lot of things right now that show that the process we are headed towards is just not a good process …The House went through a process. They went through committee they did a lot of things. It was a normal, regular order process. This is not that. We’re having a lot of conversations about that now and we’ll see where it ends up.”
- Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut added: “There has been no outreach from McConnell.”
- Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was sharply critical of the Scott bill, called the Justice Act. “Where is the justice in the Justice Act?” he said. Asked if Democrats could change it on the floor to their liking, Menendez said: “If you got commitments up front. There are none.”
One Democrat in a difficult reelection, Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, said he is inclined to vote to proceed to the bill. But when asked about a lack of progress in talks with McConnell, Jones said: “There never is. We’ll see where it goes.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat and swing vote, said: “I have no idea (how I will vote.) Everything is still open.”