House Democrats are pushing ahead with consideration of a package of policing and public safety bills – narrowly voting for open debate after an hours-long deadlock on Thursday as leaders confronted problems with blocking support to pass the legislation.
House Democrats, who have spent months trying to cobble together a package of police defunding bills to help combat attacks on the campaign trail, spent Thursday morning battling to secure votes for the to adopt, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Several progressive Democrats threatened to vote against it, and the House was suspended as leaders tried to address the issue. House Democratic leaders appear to have convinced a progressive Democrat – Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – to vote “present” in order to gain enough votes to pass the long-stalled police defunding program that vulnerable members are demanding, according to a someone familiar with the matter.
Several other progressive Democrats plan to vote no, so the vote will be close but it should pass.
House Democrats pass a series of four bills as part of their policing and public safety package – the Mental Health Justice Act of 2022, the Investment to Protect Act of 2022 , the Breaking the Cycle of Violence Act and the Victims Act 2022.
The House cleared a procedural hurdle on Thursday afternoon to open debate on the package of bills. The vote was extremely close, however, a sign of how rigorous vote counting for Democrats on the legislation is. Pressley voted present in the procedural vote to begin debate on the bills.
It was a tense few moments in the House as Democrats tried to figure out how to get the votes needed to pass the police bills in the procedural vote.
Progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who negotiated the bills, was huddled with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, biting her nails near the dais.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to delay the vote and said there was one member who was three minutes away who could vote. When the bills passed, Democrats in attendance cheered.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and one of four progressives to vote against her party’s police package in the procedural vote to kick off the debate, voiced her frustrations with the House Democratic leadership after that the Democrats narrowly advanced the package.
“I think it’s very clear that this is about the leadership of our party having certain rules for some members and another standard of rules for others,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN.
Ocasio-Cortez said she was frustrated because two of the bills didn’t get through committees properly. She said she did not understand why this package had to include four pieces of legislation, when progressives raised concerns about some of the funding for the police.
“I really struggle to hear or haven’t heard an explanation as to why these two bills are not properly presented to the prosecution on their own merits. And why should they be packed with a bill that nobody saw the final version of until yesterday,” she said.
Asked if she disagrees with Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal and Omar, who is Progressive Caucus Whip, who voted for the package, Ocasio-Cortez said they support the caucus and that she supported her district.
“We saw that the vast majority of the progressive caucus were in favor of the rule. So you know they are playing their role as caucus leaders, but we also exist as individual members representing our own communities. And so I think they spoke and they got the votes in their caucus. And we just operate as representatives of our districts,” she said.
Progressive Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who also voted against the package in the procedural vote, told CNN, “We weren’t the problem.
“Where is the responsibility of the police?” she asked. “You know, when does that happen? When does this come into play?
Omar told reporters it “took us a long time to get to this point” with the vote to advance police bills negotiated by different factions of the party.
Asked if she was confident Democrats could get enough votes to pass the bills when they hit the floor later today, she said she hoped they could.
“You can never be confident here,” she said. “I didn’t come in earlier thinking there was going to be this glitch and hiccup towards the end and we’re all going to feel like we were in labor, you know, taking the last push, so I can’t tell you what will happen. But I am optimistic that the bills will come to life and that we will move forward.
Supporters of the package announced on Wednesday that they would reach an agreement to pass the package this week after months of negotiations. Hoyer told reporters a vote would be scheduled for Thursday, and Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the move comes after reaching a compromise on language guaranteeing police accountability and scrapping another draft bill. most controversial law of the discussions.
The legislation is mostly a package of incoming messages in the midterms, as moderate members of the House Democrats have sought to shield themselves from the political attacks they are on the police.
CNN reported earlier this week how dozens of the party’s most vulnerable members sought to defuse those attacks through a flurry of pro-police campaign ads and local events with law enforcement.
Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the sponsor of the Invest to Protect Act, said in a statement ahead of the vote that the legislation “is about investing in good policing and protecting our families and our officers. This will ensure that local departments, in New Jersey and communities across our country, have what they need to recruit and retain the best officers, to provide training and to invest in the provision of mental health resources.
This story and headline were updated with additional developments on Thursday.