WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Negotiations in the U.S. Congress to tighten police practices following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis have collapsed, Democratic Senator Cory Booker said on Wednesday, as President Joe Biden blamed Republicans for the failure.
The end of congressional negotiations, at least for now, marked a setback for the Democratic president, who campaigned on the need for policing reforms.
Calling Floyd’s murder “a stain on the soul of America,” Biden in a statement held out hope for eventually signing a comprehensive police reform bill into law and said he will look at developing further executive actions on the matter.
“Regrettably, Senate Republicans rejected enacting modest reforms, which even the previous president had supported, while refusing to take action on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address,” Biden said, referring to his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
Among the issues that lawmakers were discussing were changes to “qualified immunity” https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-police-immunity-scotus that protects police officers from some lawsuits accusing them of using excessive force, as well as prohibiting the kind of chokeholds and other restraints on people being arrested that have led to deaths.
“It was clear at this negotiating table at this moment we were not making progress” following nine months of meetings, Booker said.
“In fact, recent back and forths with paper showed me that we were actually moving away from it,” Booker told reporters.
Republican Senator Tim Scott in a statement accused Democrats of reverting to “a partisan approach to score political points.” Scott said the two sides had reached agreements banning chokeholds, limiting the transfer of military equipment to police departments and increasing mental health resources.
In April, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a death that triggered protests across the United States and gave new impetus to police reform efforts in Washington to stamp out systemic racism.
Floyd, a Black man, died after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Reform advocates encouraged Biden to use his executive powers to achieve changes.
One of the congressional negotiators, Democratic Representative Karen Bass, pointed to just such an action this month imposing strict limits on when federal officers can use chokeholds and “no-knock warrants.” But those will not apply to local police departments.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Heather Timmons; Editing by David Gregorio and Will Dunham)