On the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, lawmakers seem optimistic that they can finally take meaningful action to address the issue of police brutality. However, there is at least one faction in Congress that might seek to scuttle any such effort.
Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a statement reiterating their commitment to creating solutions related to police reform. “This anniversary serves as a painful reminder of why we must make meaningful change,” the statement read. “While we are still working through our differences on key issues, we continue to make progress toward a compromise and remain optimistic about the prospects of achieving that goal.”
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) May 24, 2021
Sen. Scott told reporters on Monday that he believes Republicans and Democrats can affect positive change in policing. “We continue to work on the process, and I think we have good, good progress over the weekend, I thought, and I think we can see the end of the tunnel,” he said.
The Senator said there would not be a final agreement this week but indicated that lawmakers are close to reaching a deal.
Sen. Booker echoed Scott’s sentiments. “We made a lot of progress over the weekend. So, we still have a lot of work to do. But the great thing about this bill is that, that everybody wants to get something really meaningful done,” he said. “And I was grateful for the amount of work that we’ve done.”
The effort to reform policing in America gained widespread attention after the video showing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes despite his being handcuffed in the prone position. Chauvin was later convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, among other charges, last month. (See: Derek Chauvin Is Guilty)
Floyd’s death also sparked a wave of peaceful and some violent protests in major cities all across the nation and also brought about a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last year, lawmakers on both sides offered proposals but could not come to an agreement. Sen. Scott put forth a police reform proposal that could have served as the foundation for more comprehensive solutions. However, the Democrats filibustered his proposed legislation. Scott slammed the Democrats for scuttling his bill for political reasons. Now, it appears negotiations have been back on track.
However, it seems that the socialist “Squad” and other House members might try to throw the proverbial monkey wrench into any meaningful reform. These individuals are insisting that any proposal must include reforming qualified immunity.
“We are concerned by recent discussions that the provision ending qualified immunity for local, state, and federal law enforcement may be removed in order to strike a bipartisan deal in the Senate,” they argued in a letter. “Given that police violence, as a weapon of structural racism, continues to have devastating and deadly consequences for Black and brown lives across our country, we strongly urge you to not only maintain but strengthen the provision eliminating qualified immunity as negotiations in the Senate continue.”
According to Fox News:
Qualified immunity is a protection that shields government officials of all stripes from being personally sued for violating somebody’s rights in the course of reasonably doing their jobs unless the breached rights are “clearly established in the law.” In practice, this often means that police officers who go well beyond their authority in handling an incident cannot be held civilly liable for their actions.
The lawmakers added: “In March, the House passed the bipartisan George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with the inclusion of the provision to eliminate qualified immunity for police officers, and now the Senate must do the same.”
The lawmakers drafted the letter after Senate Democrats signaled that they would be willing to address qualified immunity in subsequent legislation. At this point, it seems unlikely that a bill that would change qualified immunity would garner enough Republican votes to pass. However, the ten Democrats who signed the letter would be able to block any proposal that does not include qualified immunity reform.
The question is: Will the hard leftists in Congress be willing to take the blame for tanking a measure that could help to address the police brutality issue? To some, it might seem they are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
This isn’t to say that a conversation and debate over qualified immunity is not warranted. Many have surmised that lack of accountability when it comes to incidents in which police officers overstep their authority is the primary contributor to the problem. However, if Congress comes up with a proposal that doesn’t involve the federal government violating the Constitution by becoming excessively involved in the issue, it does not make sense to hamper progress in this area.