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Senate Democrats block GOP policing bill, calling it 'irrevocably flawed' and 'partisan'

Democrats want the bill to include bans on chokeholds and "no-knock" search warrants and to address qualified immunity, which shields police officers from lawsuits.
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WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked Republicans from taking up a bill to overhaul policing, calling the legislation flawed and a nonstarter.

A motion to open debate on the measure, which needed 60 votes, failed 55-45.

Ahead of the vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Republicans for what he called a “partisan" and "irrevocably flawed” approach to fixing the problem of police brutality, which has come into sharp focus in the weeks after the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers.

“I want to ask the American people, I want to ask Republican senators, who is a better guardian of the civil rights of African Americans when it comes to police reform, the NAACP or Mitch McConnell?” Schumer said. “So don't get on your sanctimonious horse, leader McConnell. You have none of the civil rights community behind you.”

Schumer predicted the bill would “likely fail” and said McConnell should allow bipartisan negotiations when it does.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and other Senate Republicans unveiled their policing legislation last week after weeks of nationwide protests over the treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement.

After the vote, Scott, the Senate's only Black GOP member, accused Democrats of taking Black voters for granted and biding time until after the November election, when they could be in the majority and could try to push through their version of reforms.

"I don't know what it's going to take to wake up our entire nation about the importance of a duopoly and not a monopoly," Scott said. "Because look at your results. Look at the results we are getting."

Alyssa Farah, the White House director of strategic communications, tweeted that it was "a shame" that Democrats were "playing politics" with the legislation.

At a news conference later Wednesday, President Donald Trump said Republicans have "total cooperation with many different communities, including the police community," on the legislation.

The president accused Democrats of blocking the Republican bill because "they want to take away a lot of the strength from our police and from law enforcement generally," including police "immunity," and said his administration would not do anything to hurt police. Trump again pointed to what he said were high crime levels in cities run by Democrats to back his point and referred specifically to the recent unrest in Seattle.

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced their own legislation to address police brutality. Unlike the measures recently introduced by House and Senate Democrats, the Republican bill would not include outright bans on chokeholds or "no-knock" search warrants and does not touch on qualified immunity, which shields police officers from lawsuits.

The GOP bill would try to incentivize police departments to largely do away with chokeholds by conditioning Justice Department money on restricting the practice. In addition, the legislation would collect data on the use of no-knock warrants, which allow police to enter a property without first knocking and announcing their presence.

While the Democratic bill would create a national registry for complaints and disciplinary records of officers and also require reporting on use-of-force incidents, the GOP measure would collect data only when police officers use force that results in serious injury or death.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that Republicans "have some suggestions that are worthy of consideration. But so far, they were trying to get away with murder, actually — the murder of George Floyd" — prompting Senate Republicans to demand an apology.

The House plans to vote Thursday on the Democratic proposal, which is expected to pass the chamber.

CORRECTION (June 24, 2020, 6:24 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Tim Scott's distinction in the Senate. He is the only Black Republican senator, not the only Black senator.