Not to be outdone, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) described Scott’s bill as “trying to get away with murder, in fact. The murder of George Floyd. When asked if she would apologize, Pelosi replied, “Absolutely, absolutely not” – although she said she was not referring to Scott but to the majority of the Senate Mitch McConnell ( R-Ky.). Of course it was.
Democrats should apologize for their shameful vote in the Senate Wednesday to kill Scott’s legislation – and with it any chance of passing police reform this year. The Democrats knew exactly what they were doing. As Senator Angus King (I-Maine), one of the three members of the Democratic caucus who voted to advance Scott’s bill, explained, “voting against will end debate on this subject in the Senate in a foreseeable future, and will leave us with nothing to show for all the energy and passion that has put this issue at the forefront of public consciousness. ”
He is right. If the Democrats wanted to do anything, they would have allowed the Senate to go ahead and sought to change Scott’s floor bill. There were many bases for compromise. Scott’s legislation had already incorporated a number of Democratic proposals, including: making lynching a federal hate crime, creating a national police commission to conduct a review of the US criminal justice system; collection of police use of force data; prohibit the use of bottlenecks by federal officers and withhold federal funds from national and local law enforcement agencies that do not prohibit them in the same way; and withhold federal money from police departments that do not report to the Department of Justice when restraining warrants are used.
Indeed, the Republicans have offered to allow voting on as many amendments as the Democrats wanted – something Pelosi has refused to allow House Republicans to do with the police reform bill. House. Scott promised the Democrats that he would obstruct his own bill if they did not get the votes requested. As Scott explained in a passionate speech, he even told the Democrats that he would vote to support some of their amendments, such as expanding the definition of chokeholds and collecting data not only on serious injuries and deaths, but on all use of force by the police. “We will stay on this floor for as long as we need and as many amendments as we need,” he said. With Scott’s support, some of these amendments would have gained enough Republican support to pass – giving the Democrats the real prospect of making significant changes to the bill.
Even if the Democrats did not fully accept the compromise bill that the Senate finally passed, they would have another chance to improve it in negotiations with the House. As everyone who grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock knows, the way a bill becomes law is for both the House and the Senate to adopt their own versions of the bill and then negotiate a compromise they can put on the president’s desk. If, after all these efforts, they still did not like the results of the House-Senate conference, then the Democrats (who control the House) could still have refused to introduce a final bill. But at least they could have pretended to have made a real effort to reach a bipartisan consensus.
But the fact that the Democrats have not even tried this shows that they were not interested in a compromise. Scott says that his fellow Democrats told him “we’re not here to talk about it” and “got out”. They voted not to even allow debate on his bill because they knew police reform would not take place this year. This, said Scott, was a tragedy. “We lost – I lost – a vote on a bill that would have brought about a systemic change in the relationship between communities of color and the law enforcement community.”
At a time when much of our country seems to be in chaos – with violence on the streets, declared autonomous areas and crowds slaughtering statues – Americans want their elected leaders to behave like adults, work together and do something. The Republicans have made a good faith effort to achieve this. But Democrats seem to care more about using the problem to boost their base on election day than working with Republicans to enact police reform.