Black lawmakers push for Floyd police bill in aftermath of Tyre Nichols

The Congressional Black Caucus chair, Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, is leading efforts to jumpstart police reform talks in Washington, including with President Biden.

Black congressional leaders are jumpstarting negotiations on Capitol Hill in an effort to revive the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the aftermath of the deadly Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols, who will be laid to rest on Wednesday.

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), confirmed with theGrio that he met with Republican Sen. Tim Scott on Monday to discuss police reform and plans to reach out to other Republican colleagues in the coming days. Horsford also requested a meeting with President Joe Biden, which will take place on Thursday.

Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford (above) confirmed with theGrio that he met with Republican Sen. Tim Scott on Monday to discuss police reform and plans to reach out to other Republican colleagues. (Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images)

Horsford told theGrio that he plans to raise concerns expressed to him personally by Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells. The lawmaker, who invited the Wells family as his guests to Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7 on Capitol Hill, said he directly asked them what they wanted from Washington leaders in the wake of their son’s deadly police beating that resulted in five former officers charged with second-degree murder.

The CBC chair said the Wellses expressed a desire to see Congress and the White House “take action on the culture of policing in this country.” He hopes resurrecting the Floyd bill can do just that. 

“Bad policing is what happened in Memphis that caused, in my view, the murder of Tyre Nichols,” Horsford told theGrio. “But it’s not only Memphis; it happens virtually every day, somewhere in America.”

The Floyd bill, passed by the House of Representatives during the last session of Congress, would tighten laws related to accountability for members of law enforcement, restrict certain police practices and expand national data collection. However, the legislation imploded in the Senate in 2021 after Democrats were unable to reach a bipartisan agreement with Scott, who was the lead negotiator for Republicans.

The South Carolina lawmaker, who is the only Black Republican in the Senate, said he took issue with a provision that would revoke or suspend funding for police departments that do not comply with certain requirements. Scott characterized the measures as “defunding the police.” Another sticking point in the bipartisan negotiations was the reforming of qualified immunity, which would lower the threshold for officers being sued in civil court. 

Senators Briefed Behind Closed Doors By Government Agencies On Coronavirus Outbreak
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey (left) and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina (right) seen walking to a coronavirus briefing on Capitol Hill in February 2020, have indicated recently that they would like to restart talks between their parties on police reform legislation. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Horsford, as well as other Democrats in Congress, are hoping they can get Scott to bring Republicans back to the negotiating table. Both Scott and the lead Democratic Senate negotiator on the Floyd bill, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, indicated that they would like to begin the process of restarting talks between both parties. 

However, this time around, Democrats appear to have less of a pathway to get the federal police reform bill over the finish line since Republicans now control the House. So far, House GOP leaders have indicated they’re not interested in working with Democrats on the issue.

Despite the odds, Horsford said he remains hopeful: “I understand that we’re in an even more difficult situation this Congress than we were last Congress, but that doesn’t mean that this issue of policing should be any less important. In fact, all of us, regardless of party, should agree bad policing shouldn’t be allowed.”

Freshman Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), who made history this year as the first member of Generation Z and the youngest person to enter Congress, is less confident in the odds of a George Floyd bill passing in the 118th Congress in the next two years.

Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), participates in a House Oversight and Reform Committee meeting Tuesday. The freshman congressman said he is not hopeful about a police reform bill passing in the next two years. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“In Congress, it’s a math game … passing legislation, you got to have the right math,” Frost told theGrio. “Unfortunately, due to the filibuster in the Senate and due to the fact that Republicans are controlling the House, I don’t see us passing the bold, transformational legislation we need right now to change things as it relates to public safety in this country.” 

“And that’s why 2024 is going to be so important,” he added.

In the absence of such a legislative victory for police reform advocates, Frost said, it’s still important for community and government leaders to continue sounding the alarm. “It doesn’t mean we don’t do what we need to do at the local level … it doesn’t mean we don’t still file bills and still talk about it,” he said.

Horsford made clear that his efforts on the Hill to pass the Floyd bill are not about being anti-police, saying, “I’m not anti-police … I’m pro-community safety.” 

“All of us should be safe in our communities,” he continued. “Everyone should be able to drive in our neighborhoods without being pulled over, beaten and ultimately [dying]. You should be able to go to a park without being accosted. You should be able to sleep in your home without having a door broken down in the middle of the night. These are the realities that people have faced, and in most of the cases, it has been a result of bad policing.”

Another opportunity for police reform implementation could come through executive actions from Biden. In 2022, after Congress failed to deliver the Floyd bill by the president’s requested deadline — the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder — Biden signed a series of executive orders to limit the use of force by police officers, ban chokeholds and restrict no-knock warrants on the federal level, among other actions.

Horsford said the Congressional Black Caucus would like to “review the status of those executive actions, what we’ve learned to date and what more we need to know.” He noted, “I commend the president for what he did have the ability and authority to do.”

The CBC leader said he looks forward to Biden’s State of the Union address next week, where the parents of Tyre Nichols will be front and center before the entire nation.

“This is about meeting the need of the American people to talk about a critical issue that people are facing in their neighborhood, in their homes, at their kitchen table, just like housing, just like job creation, just like addressing environmental justice,” said Horsford. “We want the culture of policing to be a top priority in this Congress, with this administration and with the American people.”

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