Home U.S House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in party-line vote

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in party-line vote

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The House voted along party lines Wednesday to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a Democrat-backed bill that seeks to enact sweeping police reform following Floyd’s death during an encounter with police in Minneapolis last May.

Championed by civil rights groups, the wide-ranging bill would overhaul standards for police tactics and conduct at the federal level. Prominent measures include a federal ban on no-knock warrants and chokeholds, limits on qualified immunity shielding police from civil lawsuits, a framework to prevent racial profiling and the establishment of a national registry on allegations of police misconduct.

The bill passed by in a 220-212 vote. Texas Rep. Lance Gooden was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the bill, while two Democrats voted against it.

The bill now proceeds for further consideration in the Senate, where it is expected to face stiff opposition from GOP lawmakers. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged it would be difficult to pass the bill in the upper chamber.  

“What the Senate will do is what the Senate will do, but we will send over the bill that has the balance that we have in it,” Pelosi told reporters at the time.

The House previously passed a version of the reform bill last June, just weeks after Floyd’s death prompted nationwide protests against police brutality. Republicans opposed the bill and it later stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The White House signaled its support for the bill’s passage in a statement earlier this week.

“To make our communities safer, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect,” the White House said in a statement. “We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in police departments. “

Calls for police reform prompted intense partisan debate in recent months. Democrats and prominent civil rights groups argue the overhaul is necessary to combat systemic racism and prevent future police-involved deaths.

Republican opposition has centered in part on the bid to end qualified immunity. GOP critics, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, have argued removing the liability shield would undermine public safety and make it difficult to recruit.

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Scott introduced his own police reform bill in the Senate last June. Senate Democrats blocked the measure, arguing it did not go far enough to address systemic injustice.

Biden pledged to make police reform one of his administration’s top priorities upon entering the White House. However, progressive lawmakers have occasionally targeted Biden over his stated opposition to calls to “defund” the police.

House lawmakers were originally slated to vote on the bill on Thursday. The vote was moved up amid concerns about a potential security threat to the Capitol later this week.

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