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Civil Rights

House Democrats Pass Police Reform Bill Named After George Floyd

— March 7, 2021

Republican lawmakers claim that Democrats are effectively trying to “defund the police” by requiring that law enforcement make itself more transparent.

House Democrats have passed a police reform bill that seeks to combat racial discrimination and the use of excessive force by law enforcement personnel.

According to The New York Times, the House had earlier passed a version of the same legislation, entitled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

If signed into law, the George Floyd Act would provide incentives for state-level attorneys general to investigate police misconduct. It also encourages transparency in policing by creating a National Police Misconduct Registry, and would order state and local law enforcement to report demographic data on every incident in which officers use force.

During debate on Wednesday, family members of the late George Floyd—who was slowly killed by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck—were present at the Capitol.

Black Lives Matter graffiti in Portland, OR. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Another Believer. (CCA-BY-4.0).

The Floyd family’s attorneys—Benjamin Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and L. Chris Stewart—issued a joint statement praising the bill as “a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of color and impose accountability on law enforcement officers who conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of color.”

“Now,” the attorneys said, “we urge the Senate to follow suit and send this important legislation to President Biden.”

However, the bill faced significant opposition from Republican lawmakers in both chambers.

Republicans have, for instance, claimed that the George Floyd Act is a liberal attempt to “defund the police.” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, alleged that implementation of the act would effectively drain police resources by creating “mountains of new regulations.”

“Democrats,” Rep. McCarthy said, “have doubled down as the party of Defunding the Police.”

But on Wednesday, the House voted 220-212 in favor of the act. Two Democrats voted against the proposal, while a single Republican opted to approve it—with the latter later claiming his vote was a “mistake” and somehow unintentional.

Despite the George Floyd Act’s success, the New York Times suggests that it will not fare well in the Senate.

Even if all the Senate’s 50 Democrats vote to pass, conservatives would still be able to block it by filibuster.

Republicans had earlier tried to sabotage Democratic attempts to pass an electoral reform bill, known as HB1. While voting on HB1 is expected to commence in the near future, CBS News notes that its passage—much like that of the George Floyd Act—is largely contingent upon how the Senate interprets its own rules.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, one of Georgia’s two new Democratic senators, said liberals might be able to swing an exception to the chamber’s filibuster rules, since HB1 and the George Floyd Act relate to voting and civil rights, respectively.

“Voting rights is preservative of all other rights, and we have to do everything we can to preserve the voices of the people in our democracy,” Warnock said on Tuesday. “I think that the issues are urgent enough to leave all options on the table.”


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