'Chokeholds aren't a joking matter': Schumer scolds GOP senator over remarks on police reform bill

Schumer said the Republican policing bill is "deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed," calling it a "nonstarter."
Image: U.S. Senator John Barrasso speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on June 2, 2020.Erin Scott / Reuters file

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By Dartunorro Clark

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., excoriated a Republican senator Tuesday who referred to opposition by Democrats to the GOP police reform bill as a "chokehold."

"Chokeholds aren't a joking matter," Schumer tweeted, responding to comments made by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. "The fact that they're joking about chokeholds instead of actually banning them shows that the Republicans never took this seriously."

At a Republican policy luncheon Tuesday, Barrasso criticized Schumer and other Senate Democrats who are poised to vote against the Republican police reform legislation, which was introduced after weeks of nationwide anti-racism protests over police brutality.

"We have Chuck Schumer with a chokehold on the JUSTICE Act and our opportunity for police reform in America," Barrasso said.

Activists, reform advocates, elected officials and some who work in law enforcement are pushing to ban chokeholds and other restraints in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody. For instance, the Minneapolis and New York City police departments have recently banned them.

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House Democrats unveiled their own legislation, a sweeping bill of reforms that calls for banning all neck restraints. President Donald Trump has said the "concept of chokeholds sounds so innocent, so perfect," but he signed an executive order this month to ban chokeholds except when officers' lives are at risk.

Schumer said Tuesday that the Republican bill is "deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed," calling it a "nonstarter."

The Republican bill was introduced by Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican senator. Republicans need the support of seven Democrats to reach the 60 votes required to move the bill forward.

"There's literally no harm done by debating this important topic," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. "It requires some level of cooperation from the other side."