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Moderate and progressive Democrats strike a deal on policing bills ahead of midterm election

The House will vote on the legislation Thursday, helping vulnerable Democrats blunt GOP attacks that they want to "defund police" and are soft on crime.
Statue Dedication Ceremony in Statuary Hall
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., speaks in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on July 13. Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA via AP file

WASHINGTON — Moderate and progressive House Democrats struck a deal Wednesday on a long-awaited policing and public safety package, a breakthrough they hope will unify the party on a key issue weeks before the midterm election.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will vote on the package on Thursday, though the Senate has no plans to take up the issue before the election.

The package includes four bills written by moderate Democrats. One from Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada would fund nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations that work to reduce crime. Another by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey would provide grants to local police departments with fewer than 125 sworn officers. A third, by Rep. Katie Porter of California, would provide grants for mental health professionals and other resources. And the fourth, by Rep. Val Demings of Florida, would give police grants to help solve gun crimes.

All four authors of the bills are in tough races this fall, including Demings who is trying to unseat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida. The police funding bills are aimed at blunting campaign attacks from Republicans, who have accused Democrats of wanting to “defund the police” and failing to curb rising crime rates.

The agreement came after months of challenging negotiations between Gottheimer, a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and prominent Congressional Black Caucus leaders, including Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio; Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.; and progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

Asked how the deal got done, Horsford said, “Persistence. A lot of staying at the table."

Demings, a former Orlando police chief, told NBC News her bill “will help solve homicides in this country; 50% of homicides go unsolved. And it will also help to provide support services for the survivors and the victims that are left behind family members.

“So I think that’s pretty important giving police the tools and resources they need to do what they’re supposed to do — and that’s solve crime,” she said.

House Democrats had tried to bring a package of policing bills to the floor before the summer recess, but progressives and some Black Caucus members — who’ve demanded police accountability after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020  — threatened to derail the legislation.

Leadership yanked the package but vowed to return to the issue before the election.

Two other policing bills, written by moderate Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., that had previously been a part of the negotiations were removed from the package announced Wednesday.

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who also took part in the talks, said one of the changes progressives secured was reducing the size of police departments eligible for certain grants under Gottheimer's proposal to 125 officers, down from 200.

“We negotiated it and it was good, productive, constructive negotiations over the last several days,” Jayapal told reporters. “I think that the call for accountability has not really gone away. That call for the George Floyd kinds of pieces of accountability are still very important.”