WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed an expansive policing overhaul bill aimed at combating racial discrimination and excessive use of force in law enforcement, as Democrats sought to respond to a nationwide outcry for racial justice and pushed through legislation that is doomed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The bipartisan vote was 236-181 to approve the measure, the most sweeping federal intervention into law enforcement in years. It would eliminate legal protections that shield police officers from lawsuits, make it easier to prosecute them for wrongdoing, impose a new set of restrictions on the use of deadly force, and effectively ban the use of chokeholds.
But the passage of the legislation, introduced as a response to the killings of black Americans across the country and a wave of protests that have followed, only underscored the depth of the stalemate in Congress over how to bring about law enforcement changes that both parties say are needed. Republicans have said the bill is a federal overreach into policing that will never pass the Senate, and the White House has threatened a veto.
Its approval came the day after Senate Democrats blocked a Republican effort to advance a much narrower bill that would encourage police departments to revise their practices, but not mandate any changes. That move all but extinguished the hope that Congress will be able to pass legislation this year addressing systemic racism in law enforcement, almost certainly shifting the debate over race and policing to the campaign trail, where the two parties will blame each other for the demise of the effort.
Still on Thursday, Democrats called the passage of their bill an important message at a time of upheaval over the treatment of black Americans by the police. Speaking from the Capitol steps, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that the vote would serve as a pledge to the American public: “Never again.”
“Exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and changed the course of history,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The House is honoring his life and the lives of all killed by police brutality.”
Three moderate Republicans joined a united bloc of Democrats — including those facing difficult re-election fights in conservative-leaning districts — to support the legislation. The vote underscored just how quickly the politics of law enforcement have shifted during an election year amid a groundswell of public support for significant changes to the way that the police operate. Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Will Hurd of Texas, the only African-American Republican in the chamber, voted in support of the bill. Read more
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