Bipartisan bicameral talks continue as a core group of lawmakers tries to strike a deal on overhauling policing. While those talks have intensified over the last few days, we do not anticipate a bill being filed or a deal being struck in the immediate future.
According to Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, the next step will be formal negotiations. Up until now, Bass, GOP Sen. Tim Scott and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker have been engaged in what they’ve described as informal discussions. Bass said she hopes formal negotiations will begin in a matter of days.
“When you hear real negotiations, you will hear our leadership say negotiations are beginning and these are the negotiating partners, that has not happened yet,” Bass said today.
Bass said she planned to speak with Scott and Booker today but did not say if she is meeting with them separately or together.
Key sticking points include:
- Qualified immunity
- No knock warrants
- Section 242 (federal statute governing police misconduct)
On qualified immunity, one of the biggest sticking points, Scott backs an idea that would allow civil litigation against police departments, rather than individual officers.
Currently individual officers are protected against lawsuits, even if it is later determined that the officer violated the Constitution, unless it can be clearly established in prior cases that the conduct is recurring and unconstitutional.
Bass told CNN on Wednesday she believes officers and departments need to be held accountable.
Still Scott maintains they’re not that far apart on the issue, telling CNN today, “I think there are a number of Democrats that have proposals that actually put the burden on the employer, not the employee…I’ve spoken to many senators, who, on the left, who are very amenable and to that. I think we’ll bridge that gap.”
On the issue of Section 242, Scott has said it’s "off the table" while Bass maintains it must be addressed. Justice Department policy maintains that under Section 242 of the federal criminal code, in order to prosecute a law enforcement officer acting in an official capacity, "prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a law enforcement officer acted willfully to deprive an individual of a federally protected right. "
Civil rights groups maintain that Section 242 makes meeting the burden of proof almost impossible.
At this point these talks are pretty much exclusively happening on the Hill. Bass said the White House is being kept informed as things move forward. White House officials from the Office of Legislative Affairs, Domestic Policy Council director Susan Rice and Office of Public Engagement director Cedric Richmond are keeping track of developments.
The Biden administration has expressed its support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which passed the House in March with no Republican support. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has acknowledged there will likely need to be changes made to that bill in order to pass the Senate.
Bottom line: There is real movement on the issue of police reform, but it’s going to take some time. Still, all parties agree this time feels different than last summer when these efforts failed.