Should the Senate Debate Police Reform & Amendments to the JUSTICE Act?
Do you support or oppose the Senate debating police reform & amendments to the JUSTICE Act?
by Causes | 6.24.20
UPDATE - 6/24/20 (1:30pm EDT) — Senate Democrats block debate on police reform legislation:
- Senate Democrats voted to block the procedural motion that would've allowed for further debate & amendment votes on the JUSTICE Act.
- The motion to start debate & move to the consideration of amendments failed on a 56-44 vote, with 60 votes required. All Republicans voted in favor, as did Sens. Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME), and Joe Manchin (D-WV). All other Democrats voted no.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changed his vote from "yes" to "no" so that he can have the ability to recall the motion for another vote if progress is made on the issue. He hasn't yet announced another vote on the motion.
- The Senate is set to take a key procedural vote on Wednesday that will decide whether the “world’s greatest deliberative body” will start a debate on police reform legislation that leads to votes on amendments, with the goal of eventually passing a bill that can become a law.
- Wednesday’s vote is on a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to the JUSTICE Act, a police reform bill introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a summary of which you can find here.
- The vote is not a vote on final passage. On the contrary, the vote is to simply bring the bill to the floor so that debate can continue and amendments can be considered before a vote on final passage occurs.
- The motion requires 60 votes to succeed, which means that if all 53 Republicans vote in favor they’ll need to be joined by at least 7 Democrats for debate to continue. Several Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have said they oppose the motion to continue debate and consider amendments because they view the JUSTICE Act in its current form as “not salvageable” even with the potential consideration of amendments.
What would be the next steps on the bill if the motion passes?
- If Wednesday’s vote succeeds, cloture would be “invoked” on the motion to proceed, which means that debate on the motion to proceed would be limited to a maximum of 30 hours. That debate would run through Thursday unless the Senate unanimously agrees to vote sooner.
- After the vote on the motion to proceed (which requires only a simple majority and could be done on a voice vote), the Senate would schedule votes on a to-be-determined number of amendments to the JUSTICE Act. Amendment votes would be subject to a 60-vote threshold to be adopted.
- Once the Senate completes its consideration of amendments to the bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would file a cloture motion on the underlying, amended bill. After he files the motion there would be an intervening day where the motion “ripens” before the cloture vote ― which would also require 60 votes to succeed ― could occur on the second day after filing (unless there’s unanimous consent to vote sooner).
- Assuming the cloture motion on the underlying bill succeeds, there would be up to 30 hours of further debate on the bill barring unanimous consent to vote sooner. That means it’s likely a passage vote ― which would only require a simple majority to succeed ― probably wouldn’t occur until the weekend or next week.
- The most likely path to a compromise bill becoming law is the Senate passing an amended version of the JUSTICE Act that gains bipartisan support, the House passing Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act in what will be a mostly (if not strictly) party-line vote, and the two chambers ironing out the differences in a conference committee that produces a bill that clears both chambers and is signed into law by President Donald Trump.
What would be the next steps if the motion fails?
- If fewer than 60 senators vote in favor of the motion on Wednesday it could spell the end of efforts to reach a compromise on police reform in the current Congress, and potentially future Congresses as well because it’s unlikely either party will control 60 seats in the next few years.
- However, the Senate could vote on the motion again within the next few days, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained on Tuesday that if the motion failed he would change his vote from “yes” to “no” ― a parliamentary move that would allow him to bring the motion back up for a vote at a later date. A re-vote on the motion could occur as early as Thursday, if it happens.
What are senators saying?
- Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lead sponsor of the JUSTICE Act, urged senators to vote in favor of the motion to allow debate to continue at a Tuesday press conference:
“If your objective is to solve the issue of police reform and not campaign on the issue of police reform, the way you do that is by coming to the table and voting yes on the motion to proceed… If it’s more important for us to score political points and talk about the legislation and what’s missing, and not actually come to the table to improve the legislation, that means we’re only talking about politics and we’re not talking about human beings who are losing confidence in the institutions of authority and power because we keep pretending that this is about Washington, D.C.”
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), one of the lead sponsors of a competing bill drafted by Democrats, offered the following statement on the floor about her opposition to the motion to allow debate to continue and amendment votes to be held:
“We can’t answer the people’s demand for accountability with watered-down politics and watered-down policies and an obstructionist tactic to distract us from what we clearly know is necessary to meet the calls and the cries of this moment and this movement. And so, I will say we cannot answer their demands with this Republican attempt to obstruct real progress and real justice in our country… I intend to vote against a motion to proceed tomorrow. I also intend to vote for a motion to proceed with real reform. I’m not against the motion to proceed, we should proceed. Let’s proceed with action, not gestures, with action.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / mokee)
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