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House votes to pass package of police bills before midterm

The House passed a package of police and public safety bills on Thursday, as Democratic centrists and progressives came together on long-sought legislation 47 days from the midterm elections.

The bills – the Mental Health Justice Act 2022, the Investment to Protect Act 2022, the Breaking the Cycle of Violence Act and the Victims Act 2022 – would provide million to local law enforcement with accountability measures.

The legislation is the result of months of negotiations among Democrats as the party seeks to counter Republican accusations that it is soft on crime — a perception Democrats acknowledge costing them seats in 2020. The bills, which garnered bipartisan support, are largely political messages like the measures are unlikely to garner enough Republican support in the Senate to pass.

While House Democrats from all parties managed to unite on the legislation, a handful of far-left party members nearly derailed the bills on Thursday in a procedural vote as they sought greater police accountability. Democrats pushed for legislation after the 2020 killing of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident, by a white police officer.

Four Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Jamaal Bowman (NY), Cori Bush (Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — joined Republicans in voting no, while a fifth Democrat voted present . The vote on a rule, which set the terms for debate on the legislation, was 216-215 in favor. A tie would have caused the measures to fail.

In a statement earlier in the day, Bush complained that one of the four bills had failed to address “the crisis of police brutality.”

Lawmakers in swing districts facing tough re-election fights had wanted votes on bills they could use to reverse Republican attacks that Democrats are anti-police. But liberals were adamant that any legislation must also increase police accountability provisions.

The Mental Health Justice Act of 2022, sponsored by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Seeks to create a grant program for states and local governments to train and send mental health professionals mental health – instead of law enforcement officers – to respond to emergencies that involve people with behavioral health needs.

The Invest to Protect Act of 2022, sponsored by moderate Rep. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), would provide a grant to a local or tribal government that employs fewer than 200 law enforcement officers for equipment and supplies. programs, including body cameras, climbing deformation and improved recruitment and retention.

Republicans joined Democrats in passing the bill, 360-64.

The VICTIM Act of 2022 would help law enforcement implement violent incident suppression and technological investigation methods. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who is trying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The Break the Cycle of Violence Act, sponsored by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), would fund nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations that work to reduce crime.

During the House debate, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) expressed frustration with the bills’ shortcomings — particularly with regard to police accountability. But he said he would not allow “the perfect to be the enemy of the good”.

“I am confident that many of the provisions in these four bills will help save lives,” he said. “But this conversation can’t end here. We must continue to make our communities safer in new, innovative and imaginative ways. »

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) called the legislation unnecessary and unable to address voters’ real concerns about rising crime.

“This is a last ditch effort for them to act like they’re not deeply out of touch with the country coming in just in time to see the results of the election polls,” she said.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) dismissed any characterization that Democrats are trying to rebrand themselves ahead of a competitive midterm election with their majority control at risk. She said her party displays its commitment to public safety for all.

“This is not a last-ditch effort,” she said. “Democrats have always supported law enforcement with our civil rights friends.”

“Democrats have been at the forefront,” Lee added. “And I’m very happy to say that we’re not asking to fund the FBI. We ask to support our community.

The latter was a reference to some Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who adopted the far-right rallying cry to “defund the FBI” after the court-ordered search last month of former President Donald Trump. Domain of Mar-a-Lago.

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Those involved in the negotiations paid tribute to the Congressional Black Caucus, in particular Speaker Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.), for moderating talks between centrist and liberal lawmakers. The Liberals had joined CBC members in initially opposing a vote on any police defunding bill that lacked accountability provisions when leaders tried to push the package through the summer course.

Party leaders, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and moderate and liberal lawmakers, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Reached an agreement Wednesday.

The groups were able to strike a deal with moderate Gottheimer to fund police departments of 125 or fewer officers and earmark money for officer training, community safety, and police accountability. The money cannot be used to make new hires, but can be used for signing bonuses as well as mental health efforts.

“It’s critical to policing that we have the backs of law enforcement, because every day they have ours,” Gottheimer said.

During Thursday’s debate, Rep. Kelly Armstrong (RN.D.) criticized portions of the bill that replace law enforcement with mental health providers in some cases, arguing that mental health providers the most skilled would always be ill-equipped to manage risk. situations.

“A crime scene or a home experiencing a domestic violence conflict is not the setting for providing mental health care,” he said. “No one can tell us for sure that they know in advance which domestic violence calls should receive a mental health response instead of a law enforcement response.”

Porter defended the legislation, saying existing police departments that use mental health response units have welcomed the effort, saying it allows them to spend more time enforcing laws.

“When we send police to people in crisis, we fail to provide those people with desperately needed health care and prevent law enforcement from tackling the violent crimes they are trained to do,” he said. she declared. “It hurts everyone in our community.”

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