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After kneeling for close to nine minutes before the cameras Monday morning, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the Justice in Policing Bill of 2020. Following bipartisan support for reforms, some including Black Caucus Chair Rep. Bass (D-Calif.), hoped for a cooperative tackling of the issue. First steps by Pelosi, however, suggest that this attempt is falling into the same partisan trap previous attempts at reform have.
Rumors began swirling the morning of Pelosi’s announcement that Republicans had been blocked from contributing to the immense bill. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) confirmed that was the case.
“As a Member of the Judiciary Committee, a lawyer, and former JAG Officer, I was not included in the drafting of this bill and neither were any of my Republican colleagues,” Steube said in a statement to The Federalist. “This was a partisan attempt by House Democrats to message to their progressive base and not come up with bipartisan solutions that would actually help unify the country.”
Representative Armstrong (R-N.D.), also a member of the Judiciary Committee charged with handling law enforcement matters, confirmed the leadership’s stonewalling. For Armstrong, the partisanship came as no surprise.
“From serving on the Judiciary Committee for 15 months, I would be surprised if it went any other way at this point. And I have to be clear that this isn’t all Democrats, not even all Democrats on the Committee, but it is the leadership,” Armstrong told The Federalist.
While there is broad consensus that action should be taken after the death of George Floyd, disagreement remains on methods, but that’s a natural part of the process.
Consider the 2018 criminal justice reform bill. With the support of President Donald Trump, Congressional Republicans, and Democrats, the First Step Act removed thousands of years of unnecessary sentencing. At every level, there was GOP and presidential involvement. Yet these lessons have seemingly been forgotten by the current leadership. It’s a mistake that may well sink the chance for immediate reform; even if the bill passes the Democrat-controlled House, it will still need Republican approval. Good-faith debate on methods will be a necessary step for change.
Despite Pelosi’s actions, there is still hope for reform. There are many ideas to make policing more effective without punishing good cops, or hamstringing law enforcement through “defunding.” Reforming qualified immunity, keeping track of bad officers, and devoting greater resources for safety and bystander training are just a few of these ideas.
“I don’t know a single person who thinks that cop should’ve had a job when it happened,” Armstrong said, adding that if the leadership allowed Republican input, they would be able “to move things forward.” But such openness would be a surprise, he said, and “that’s unfortunate all the time, but that’s really unfortunate in this instance.”