“Mitch McConnell has a way of trying to bully us around and he thinks he can get his way, and if past is prologue… our caucus held together and each time he came back,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) after the vote. “The Republican Party sees the handwriting on the wall, they see what the American people feel.”
Prior to the vote, McConnell defended Scott’s proposal and accused Democrats of giving a “last-minute ultimatum” by turning “this routine step into a partisan impasse.”
McConnell also demurred when asked when he would bring the bill back up after Democrats filibustered it. “Well, we will let you know. It can be done under a motion to reconsider at any point,” he told reporters. McConnell took procedural steps to bring the bill up quickly on the floor anytime this year if he wants.
Senate Republicans argued that Wednesday’s vote was a way to begin the police reform debate and that the process would allow for consideration of amendments. Democrats said there’s no point in voting to advance a bill they see as fatally flawed and that won’t have the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.
Instead, Democrats called on Republicans to come back to the negotiating table to come up with a bipartisan solution that the Senate could then vote on. The Senate minority is particularly frustrated that GOP leaders put the bill on the floor before holding any talks to craft the plan or consider it in committee.
Democrats say Scott’s bill is a non-starter, and highlighted opposition from key civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for the bill’s failure Wednesday, saying they “don’t want to do it because they want to weaken our police.”
Following the vote, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) thanked the Democratic caucus for mostly staying united.
“It’s of note that there’s a great diversity within our caucus… but there was an incredible consensus around this issue,” Harris said. “Let the beginning be today of a real conversation where the United States Congress will do its job in meeting the moment, in responding to the demands of the people and doing what is well within our grasp, take us at least one step closer to that ideal of equal justice under the law.”
Manchin was one of the few Democrats to buck his party.
“I know there’s a lot of skepticism whether McConnell could actually have amendments,” Manchin said. “And we can vote however on proceeding from there, cloture and all that. If he doesn’t, we’ll [stop it], I’ve talked to Tim Scott, Booker and everybody. And I just said guys there are some things we agree on, we’re not that far apart.”
The GOP bill requires additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of “no knock warrants,” provides incentives for chokehold bans and makes lynching a federal crime.
The Democratic proposal, led in the Senate by Booker and Harris, would ban chokeholds and no knock warrants in federal drug cases. It would also limit qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier to sue police — something Democrats argue is key to holding police officers accountable for misconduct, but which most Republicans won’t consider. The House is set to pass a sweeping Democratic police reform proposal Thursday.
Senate Republicans are accusing Democrats of wanting to campaign on the issue and say that if they want to improve the bill, they can do so through the amendment process. In his floor remarks following the vote, which McConnell and other Senate colleagues stayed to watch, Scott chastised Democrats for being unwilling to compromise and emphasized that he told his Democratic colleagues the bill could be amended.
“We’re failing at politics,” Scott said. “The actual problem is not what is being offered. It is who is offering it. Took me a long time to figure out the most obvious thing in the room. It’s not the what. “
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.