Senator Tim Scott has presented a good-faith bill that would go a long way in helping to nudge local police departments toward improved practices. Even though a majority of Americans, regardless of party affiliation, want something done about police abuse, Tim Scott’s bill may not reach the floor.
Blame the GOP
In what the WSJ calls “cynicism squared,” Democrats seem to feel they will pay no price for this obstruction. Instead, Democrats, rather than debating difficult and controversial issues in Scoot’s bill, are betting the media will blame defeat on President Trump and portray the GOP as unreasonable.
What’s in Scott’s Bill
- Stresses data collection, which shouldn’t be controversial.
- Requires state and local governments to report each year to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection on police interactions that cause death or serious injury. Some police departments already report this information, but more data from more agencies could inform training.
- Deters bad police practices by leaving ultimate discretion to local officials.
Take chokeholds of the kind officer Derek Chauvin used against George Floyd in Minneapolis. Mr. Scott would condition federal grants to jurisdictions that restrict chokeholds to when deadly force is authorized. Democrats want to make them a federal civil-rights violation.
A Federal Ban on Chokeholds?
Under the Constitution, policing is a classic state and local power, so the federal role is limited to using money to leverage change. The feds contribute a small share of police budgets—a mere 6% in New York City—but the money can matter if it’s tied to desirable policy.
(B)ut restraining men who are resisting arrests can be dangerous and difficult. A federal ban seems excessive.
There are other differences, many of them worth debating. But that’s the point—debate them.
A Democratic filibuster would prevent the Scott bill from getting to the floor where Senators could offer amendments and the Senate could work its will for a change. The GOP seems united behind Mr. Scott’s bill so it would prevail most of the time. But the House is also moving a more command-and-control bill that Senate Democrats favor, and differences could be worked out in House-Senate conference.
No one should think federal reform will end police abuses, but Mr. Scott’s bill goes a long way toward meeting Democratic priorities. It ought to be the basis for compromise—that is, unless Democrats think they can kill it, blame Republicans in the process, and ride the issue to November and control of all of Washington.
No Debate on the Senate Floor?
On Wednesday, 45 Democrat Senators voted to close off debate on Scott’s police reform bill – not against the bill, but against even allowing the Senate to debate or offer amendments to Republican Tim Scott’s proposal, reports a related editorial in the WSJ.
The loser here is the chance for bipartisan agreement on police reform, which shows that Democrats don’t really care about the substance of chokeholds and the rest. Their priority is using George Floyd’s unjust killing as a campaign issue to regain power.