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Senate unveils rival proposal; House debates police reform bill

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Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Wednesday took up competing proposals to reform policing in the U.S.

The proposals follow more than four weeks of protest in the United States that was spurred by recent police killings of George Floyd in Minnesota and other African Americans.

The judiciary committee chamber’s convened Wednesday to begin debating the House proposal, in what was expected to be a marathon markup session for the Justice in Policing Act. The hearing will be followed by a panel vote.

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The reform package includes measures to make it easier to prosecute officers in criminal and civil court, to limit the transfer of military-grade weapons and bar “no-knock” warrants in drug cases.

“George Floyd mattered. Breonna Taylor mattered. Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and LaQuan McDonald mattered. Rayshard Brooks mattered,” said committee Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler. “For far too long, pleas for justice and reform have fallen on deaf ears in Congress, but that changes today.”

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The bill is expected to pass in committee, but Republican members of the panel are also expected to introduce amendments to the proposed legislation, which could delay its approval.

“The vast majority of police officers do a great job,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the panel’s ranking Republican. “They are the individuals who put on their uniforms under rain and sun every single shift and risk their lives

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“I hope today that you will embrace our thoughtful amendments that we plan to offer.”Senate Republicans led by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina also unveiled their proposal on Wednesday, A day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order instituting new federal incentives to bolster police training and create a national database to track misconduct and human right abuse.

Like Trump’s order, the Senate proposal avoids mandates, like an outright ban of chokeholds, but relies on leveraging financial incentives to encourage compliance among local police departments.

The Senate bill requires departments to share disciplinary actions taken against officers when they apply for new jobs, but it doesn’t establish a national tracing database like the House version does.

“We find ourselves at a place with a package that I think speaks to the families … that lost loved ones: We hear you,” said Scott, one of three African Americans in the Senate. “I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who’s concerned when he’s stopped by law enforcement officers: We see you.”

Scott said the Senate bill prioritizes three main areas — data collection, training and police transparency.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the bill will come to the Senate floor next week. He has been vocal this week about his opposition to the House version.

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“Our Democratic friends, if they want to make a law, and not just make a point, I hope they will join us in getting on the bill,” he said at a news conference Wednesday unveiling the proposal.

Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican criticized the House version as “typical Democratic overreach” that attempts to “control everything in Washington.” He also vowed that the House bill won’t pass in his chamber and said he won’t negotiate with Democrats before he brings the Senate version to the floor for a vote.

Democratic lawmakers have criticized the Senate bill as a watered-down version that falls far short of what is needed to stamp out racial inequality in police departments nationwide.

“We have only had the bill for a few hours and are reviewing it,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “But what’s clear is that the Senate Republican proposal on policing does not rise to the moment.”

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