U.S. Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a Republican police reform bill from advancing as they push for bipartisan talks on a plan to overhaul law enforcement following a national outcry against police brutality and racism.
The key procedural vote, 55-45, was seen as a setback in Congress’ effort to pass legislation in the near future.
Senate Democrats said the Republican bill was insufficient, calling it an irredeemably flawed answer to the problem of systemic racism in law enforcement.
Republican senators criticized Democrats for declining to even begin floor debate on the measure.
In a floor speech on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of giving a “last-minute ultimatum” by turning “this routine step into a partisan impasse.”
“The bill is a ruse and nothing will get done,”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday prior to the vote.
The Republican bill requires additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of “no knock warrants,” provides incentives for chokehold bans and makes lynching a federal crime.
The Senate Democratic proposal would ban chokeholds and no knock warrants in federal drug cases, and limit qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier to sue police, local media reported.
Both sides want to pass anti-lynching legislation and provide de-escalation training for police.
Republicans unveiled the measure last week, led by the only African American Republican senator — Tim Scott from South Carolina.
In response, Democrats called on Republicans to come back to the negotiating table to come up with a bipartisan solution that the Senate can then vote on.
The Democratic-led House is expected to pass its sweeping police reform legislation on Thursday, though Senate Republican leaders have said they would not take up that measure, setting the stage for a bitter stalemate on the issue.
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