House passes sweeping police overhaul after Floyd’s death

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., adjusts her facemark as she stands with House Democrats spaced for social distancing, as Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., right, speaks during a news conference on the House East Front Steps on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2020, ahead of the House vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., joined by House Democrats spaced for social distancing, speaks during a news conference on the House East Front Steps on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2020, ahead of the House vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster

  • Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and other House Democrats spaced for social distancing, speaks during a news conference on the House East Front Steps on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 25, 2020, ahead of the House vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster

  • FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., accompanied by Republican senators speaks at a news conference to announce a Republican police reform bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. Initially reluctant to speak on race, Scott is now among the Republican Party’s most prominent voices teaching his colleagues what it’s like to be a Black man in America. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) Andrew Harnik

AP Congressional Correspondent
Published: 6/26/2020 4:15:25 PM

WASHINGTON — The House has approved a far-reaching police overhaul from Democrats in a vote heavy with emotion and symbolism as a divided Congress struggles to address the global outcry over the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gathered with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the Capitol steps, challenging opponents not to allow the deaths to have been in vain or the outpouring of public support for changes to go unmatched. But the collapse of a Senate Republican bill leaves final legislation in doubt.

“Exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words — ‘I can’t breathe’ — and changed the course of history,” Pelosi said.

She said the Senate faces a choice “to honor George Floyd’s life or to do nothing.”

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is perhaps the most ambitious set of proposed changes to police procedures and accountability in decades. Backed by the nation’s leading civil rights groups, it aims to match the moment of demonstrations that filled streets across the nation. It has almost zero chance of becoming law.

On the eve of the Thursday vote, President Donald Trump’s administration said he would veto the bill. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said it would not pass the Republican-held chamber.

After the GOP policing bill stalled this week, blocked by Democrats, Trump shrugged.

“If nothing happens with it, it’s one of those things,” Trump said. “We have different philosophies.”

Congress is now at a familiar impasse despite protests outside their door and polling that shows Americans overwhelmingly want changes after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in interactions with law enforcement. The two parties are instead appealing to voters ahead of the fall election, which will determine control of the House, Senate and White House.

“We hear you. We see you. We are you,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., during the debate.

It has been a month since Floyd’s May 25 death sparked a global reckoning over police tactics and racial injustice. Since then, funeral services were held for Rayshard Brooks, a Black man shot and killed by police in Atlanta. Thursday is also what would have been the 18th birthday of Tamir Rice, a Black boy killed in Ohio in 2014.

Lawmakers who have been working from home during the COVID-19 crisis were summoned to the Capitol for an emotional, hours-long debate. Dozens voted by proxy under new pandemic rules.

During the day, several Democratic lawmakers read the names of those killed, shared experiences of racial bias and echoed support of Black Lives Matter activists.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said hundreds of thousands of people “in every state in the union” are marching in the streets to make sure Floyd “will not be just another Black man dead at the hands of the police.”

Republican lawmakers countered the bill goes too far and failed to include GOP input. “All lives matter,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz. New York Rep. Pete King said it’s time to stand with law enforcement, the “men and women in blue.” House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy decried the “mob” of demonstrators.

At one point Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., stood up to say he just didn’t understand what was happening in the country — from Floyd’s death to the protests that followed. Several Black Democratic lawmakers rose to encourage him to pick up a U.S. history book or watch some of the many films now streaming about the Black experience in America.

Later, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., noting the legacy of Emmett Till, asked others to “walk in my shoes.”

In the stalemate over the policing overhaul, the parties are settled into their political zones, almost ensuring no legislation will become law. While there may be shared outrage over Floyd’s death, the lawmakers remain far apart on the broader debate over racial bias in policing and other institutions.




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