A draft text of a police reform bill in the name of George Floyd, who was murdered under the knee of a convicted former police officer, is being circulated to lawmakers, a congressional source told NBC News on Wednesday — a positive sign that talks are moving forward.
Sen.Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also said he also appeared to confirm the circulation of a draft of the bill when asked Wednesday afternoon. “I believe there is," he said about the text.
"We're getting there," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said. "We're going to start swapping some ideas. I'm going to talk to the sheriff’s association, some of the stakeholders, but I'm increasingly optimistic we can solve this problem.
This comes a day after a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on the bill appeared to have made significant progress on the sweeping legislation, three sources told NBC News on Tuesday.
Lawmakers had previously missed the deadline imposed by President Joe Biden — May 25, which was the memorial of Floyd's death — after negotiations stalled over a provision called qualified immunity, which shields officers from being sued for misconduct. This was one of the most challenging issues plaguing the bipartisan group of negotiators, which is headed by Sens. Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.
The bill was approved by the Democratic-led House in March but has yet to receive a vote in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans are needed for passage because of the chamber's 60-vote filibuster rule.
Two sources with knowledge of the negotiations told NBC News on Tuesday that the qualified immunity issue is “mostly” settled and a third source confirmed that the issue is in a much better place than it was 10 days ago but cautions that the overall negotiations are still “tenuous.”
However, talks could still fall apart. Negotiators have been cautioning throughout the process that nothing is settled until every issue is settled. Both Booker and Scott have said that the timeline for a deal is “June or bust.” Still, the significant progress on qualified immunity greatly increases the possibility that a sweeping bipartisan agreement can be reached before the end of the month.
Republicans have argued that eliminating the protection would harm police recruitment, and Democrats insist that police officers must be held accountable for serious misbehavior. Scott was adamant that qualified immunity not be eliminated but has been open to reforms. He proposed that the police departments, not the individual officer, be held liable.