House Democrats have reached a long-elusive agreement on a package of police and community safety bills, according to several of the top stakeholders, with plans for the lower chamber to vote Thursday to send the legislation to the Senate.
The deal arrives after months of tense talks between moderate Democrats, who have been pushing for a vote on the pro-police package ahead of the midterm elections, and liberals leery of showering new funds on law enforcers without new safeguards for curbing police abuse.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), head of the Congressional Black Caucus and a key negotiator, said the vote will send a clear message to voters that Democrats are fighting to bolster public safety without sacrificing accountability for abusive officers.
“The American people have been asking for mental health — we’re giving them that. The American people have been asking for training and making sure that we’re looking at the victims — we’re giving them that. They’ve been asking us to break this cycle of violence — we’re giving them that. They have been asking us in small communities, or rural communities, to make sure we do something to get good police officers,” Beatty told reporters in the Capitol.
“So with that said, we have those bills coming forward.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a tweet that he plans to bring the policing bills to the floor for consideration Thursday.
The legislative package is smaller than the one championed by moderates earlier in the year, when the Democrats’ plans to stage a vote were thwarted by liberal opposition within their own ranks. But on Wednesday the talks bore fruit, winning the support of the liberal holdouts, including Beatty and other CBC leaders, as well as the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who conducted marathon talks with centrist Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J) to seal the deal, quickly touted provisions designed to ensure that funding targets smaller police departments, provides training for de-escalation practices and focuses on mental health.
“With this package, House Democrats have the opportunity to model a holistic, inclusive approach to public safety, and keep our promise to families across the country to address this issue at the federal level,” Jayapal and Omar said in a joint statement.
The package consists of four bills.
One, sponsored by Gottheimer, would provide federal grants to small local law enforcement agencies with fewer than 200 officers.
A third bill, sponsored by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), promotes the use of mental health workers, in lieu of law enforcement officers, in responding to incidents involving people with special behavioral needs.
Beatty said the House will vote on a single rule for the four bills, then consider each one separately on the floor.
The CBC chair noted that while not all of the caucus’ members will support the measures, it was nonetheless important to push through some form of policing legislation.
“Every member of the CBC may not weigh in on it or vote for it — and I’m okay with that,” Beatty told reporters. “But we wanted to make sure we could say we’re doing the best we can at this time.”
Porter predicted a similar trend within the Progressive Caucus. There might be some liberal defections, she said, but “a bulk” of the CPC will be on board.
The deal on policing legislation will likely be welcome news to some vulnerable Democrats, known as frontliners, who were hoping to secure a deal on public safety bills to tout on the campaign trail in the final weeks before the November midterm elections.
Those in tight races see the policing legislation as a way to combat attacks from their Republican challengers that the party wants to “defund the police.”