Democrats in the Senate blocked a Republican-backed police reform bill from advancing to the floor, calling for talks on how to overhaul policing after protests, riots, and unrest following George Floyd’s death in police custody.
The bill, backed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), didn’t gather the 60 votes necessary to move forward for debate, failing by a 55-45 margin.
“If you don’t think we’re right, make it better. Don’t walk way,” Scott said before the vote. “Vote for the motion to proceed so that we have an opportunity to deal with this very real threat to the America that is civil, that is balanced.”
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Angus King (I-Maine) voted with Republicans to advance the bill.
Scott’s bill would increase transparency in departments by providing incentives for them to use body cameras and ban chokeholds by withholding grant money. Some Democrats have said that an end to qualified immunity for police officers should be included in the bill. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that shields police officers from civil lawsuits.
The bill would also create a national database of police use-of-force incidents and create new training procedures and commissions to study race and law enforcement.
Some GOP senators said that blocking the measure would lower the chances of a bipartisan deal being struck.
“There’s literally no harm done by debating this important topic,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at his weekly news conference on Tuesday. “They don’t want a debate, they don’t want amendments, they’ll filibuster police reform from even reaching the floor of the Senate unless the majority lets the minority rewrite the bill behind closed doors in advance,” he said.
Following the block, “There probably is no path forward in this Congress if they block debate,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters.
The House is set to approve the Democrats’ bill later this week. The two bills, the House and Senate versions, would ultimately need to be the same to become law.
“If you present a bill, as Republicans have here in the Senate, that does nothing on accountability and say they are solving or dealing with the problem in even close to an adequate way, they are sadly mistaken,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Even though Democrats have argued that their proposals take more serious reform steps than Republicans’ proposal, it falls short from cries to “defund the police” or redirect money to social services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.