Rep. Karen Bass expects ‘uplifting message’ from Biden on policing in joint address to Congress

Exclusive: Congresswoman Karen Bass, who sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, wants President Joe Biden to highlight the importance of police reform

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President Joe Biden’s first joint address to members of Congress Wednesday evening is expected to focus on policing, climate change, racial equity and his whole of government approach to stimulate the economy — the American Rescue Plan

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about updated CDC mask guidance on the North Lawn of the White House on April 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

COVID-19 protocols are in place and being fully enforced. Most if not all of the Congressional leaders have been vaccinated for months now, however, because of the fear of a potential super-spreader event, the optics will be very different. Don’t expect the same visuals as previous presidential addresses with President Biden’s speech to the joint session of Congress in the Well of the House.

Only 200 people will in attendance compared to the thousand people who typically attend. 

Read More: Why there’s no designated survivor for Biden’s joint address to Congress

According to sources on Capitol Hill, the invitation to be in the room is at the discretion of the four-legislative leadership from the two chambers of Congress. In the House, invitations are coming from the Speaker’s office to both members of leadership, and rank and file. Democrats are hopeful the president can deliver his speech without so-called Republican hijinks as they call them politically during this solemn occasion.

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Concerns center around the Republican leaders and their acceptance of the limitations on the numbers allowed in the House chambers because of COVID-19 restrictions. This comes as Trump Republicans continue to tout lies of a stolen election where they falsely claim Donald Trump won by a landslide.

California Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass anticipate, “an uplifting message.”

“I’m expecting a message that says, you know what? We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and now we need to recover,” she tells theGrio.

Bass said much of the administration’s focus has been dominated by pandemic response efforts and the continued public health crisis. But she’s hopeful the administration will incorporate racial equity and public safety into its agenda.

Rep. Karen Bass
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“I want him to lift up policing and talk about how important that is,” she added.

To achieve institutional change in law enforcement practices and relations in the United States, Rep. Bass believes her bipartisan legislation, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, will land on the president’s desk. Congresswoman Bass is counting on Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina to deliver Republican votes to pass the measure.

Some of what Democrats are looking for is to limit qualified immunity in the criminal liability for police officers and a ban of police choke holds. 

Read More: Plaskett slams qualified immunity for ‘modern-day Ku Klux Klan’ police

Bass’ bill, which was passed in the House last year, needs the support of more than the majority of Senate Democrats with votes from at least 10 Republican Senators.

The congresswoman said the legislation’s passage “rest on Tim Scott’s shoulders” as he attempts to deliver the Republicans with the “blessing of his leadership.” 

Sen. Tim Scott poses before a meeting Wednesday with Seventh Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President’s Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, in the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Bonnie Cash-Pool/Getty Images)

Bass’ confidence in Scott comes as he has moved beyond the Trump era attempt to institute studies on policing to him adopting calls to banning chokeholds in the Biden era. She says Scott makes a compelling case as he recounts recent stories about being pulled over by police while wearing his Senate pin driving while Black in the nation’s capital.

“He is a conservative Republican, but he’s also a Black man who has been stopped frequently by police not too long ago,” Bass added. “So, I think this is personal to him.” 

Read More: Sen. Tim Scott will deliver Republican response to Biden’s first address to Congress

As police departments across the country remain in news headlines, local municipalities are finding themselves under FBI investigations for deadly police encounters. Elizabeth City, North Carolina is the latest city to become subject to the federal government’s microscope. The Justice Department also opened a pattern or practice investigation into police departments in Minneapolis and Lousisville, Kentucky following the murder of George Floyd and the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

People march on the West Side Highway in a protest to mark the one year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death on March 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, another South Carolina Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, has proclaimed during the recent police-involved fatal shootings that there is “an attack on police and policing,” and dismissed the prevalence of present-day systemic racism in policing.  

“Being from South Carolina [he] knows exactly what systemic racism is. He would choose to deny it,” Bass said of Graham. “Denying a problem does not make it go away.”

Now the nation awaits the Commander in Chief’s address to the nation as the public looks for his leadership and clarity on these matters. 

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