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Only Black GOP senator says waiting on police reform bill would be a 'bad decision'

Senate Republican leaders say it's unlikely that they will take up a police reform bill before the Fourth of July recess.
Image: Frederick Douglass's Birthday Honored On Capitol Hill
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, appears with Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., at the commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol in 2018.Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told reporters Monday night that it would be a "bad decision" to wait until after the Fourth of July recess to take up his police reform bill as GOP Senate leaders have signaled they intend.

Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, said he plans to release his proposal Wednesday, but leadership doesn't appear to be in a rush to act.

"I'd be surprised" if it came up before the recess, Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota told reporters in the Capitol on Monday night.

Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said, "It's hard to imagine."

Scott said he'll push to get it "sooner rather than later."

"If the House is voting next week — I think it is — I think us waiting a month before we vote is a bad decision," he said.

House Democrats last week introduced the Justice in Policing Act, which would require police departments to send data on the use of force to the federal government and create a grant program that would allow state attorneys general to create an independent process to investigate misconduct or excessive use of force. The bill would also make it easier for people to recover damages when police departments violate their civil rights and, for the first time, make lynching a federal hate crime.

President Donald Trump announced that he will sign an executive order Tuesday on police reform amid increased pressure after the death of George Floyd.

The order would create a database to track officers with multiple instances of misconduct, and it would include language encouraging police departments to involve mental health professionals when dealing with issues of homelessness, mental illness and addiction, a senior administration official said. The order would also use federal grants to give departments incentives to meet certain certification standards on the use of force, the official said.

Trump is also expected to call on Congress to pass additional legislation, the official said.

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If the Senate waits until July 20 to put police reform on the floor, it will have a busy two weeks before it leaves again for its monthlong August recess. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans have said they will look to the next coronavirus relief bill during that window.

Scott said that he spoke to Trump on Sunday night and that the two are "at least on the same page." Trump's executive order "will speak" to the issue of chokeholds, at least in part, the senator said.

Senate Republicans appear to be working through issues on chokeholds. Scott says his bill would withhold money from police departments that use the procedure, but conversations are ongoing about an outright ban, something that Scott, who says he wants to "eliminate" their use, indicates doesn't have buy-in from all Republicans who are worried about imposing a federal standard on police departments.

Asked on CNN whether a Senate bill that didn't prohibit chokeholds would be a deal breaker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: "I can't imagine they wouldn't have a ban on chokeholds. Let's get reasonable. Chokehold is a lynching. It's a strangulation. It's a lynching. I think that that is almost like the lowest common denominator."

Geoff Bennett and Shannon Pettypiece contributed.