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The House on June 25 passed, 236 for and 181 against, a Democratic-sponsored bill (HR 7120) that would set federal rules and guidelines for law enforcement practices at all levels of government. In addition to imposing rules for the tens of thousands of federal police officers, the bill includes requirements for state and local law enforcement and uses the disbursement or threatened withholding of federal funds to encourage compliance. Congress typically delivers hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local law enforcement. Among the bill's wide-ranging provisions:


Prohibit federal law enforcement from using chokeholds or other applications of pressure on the carotid arteries, throats or windpipes of persons being restrained. Financial incentives would encourage state and local police to also outlaw such tactics. The use of chokeholds based on race would be defined as a civil rights violation.


Eliminate the "qualified immunity" defense from civil federal and non-federal litigation in which a police officer is being sued for damages based on misconduct including excessive use of force. At present, accused officers can obtain immunity merely by showing their conduct was not prohibited by "clearly established law" as opposed to a specific statute or regulation.


Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, and use federal funding as leverage to persuade states and localities to bar the use of such warrants in nonfederal drug enforcement.


Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry for data on officers fired by local police departments for reasons including excessive use of force. The database could be used to identify police applicants with troublesome employment histories.


Prohibit racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by federal and nonfederal law enforcement. Individuals could bring civil actions for declaratory or injunctive relief.


Amend federal law to justify "use of force" on grounds it was "necessary" rather than merely "reasonable," and use financial incentives to encourage state and local law enforcement to adopt the same standard.


Require state and local police to report use-of-force data to a new Justice Department database, breaking down the information by race, sex, disability, religion and age. Justice could also collect data on local officers' body frisks and traffic and pedestrian stops.


Limit the transfer of military equipment from the Department of Defense to state and local police agencies.


Require uniformed federal police to wear body cameras and marked federal police cars to mount dashboard cameras, and give local departments financial incentives to equip officers with body cameras.


Lower the criminal intent standard of evidence in police misconduct prosecutions under federal law from "willfulness" to "recklessness."


Fund local commissions and task forces for developing practices based mainly on community policing rather than the use of force.


Give the Department of Justice subpoena power for investigating discriminatory and brutal "patterns and practices" by local departments, and fund efforts by state attorneys general to investigate troubled municipal departments.


Require all 18,000 local police departments in the United States to adopt law-enforcement accreditation standards.


Make it a crime for a federal police officer to engage in sex, even if it is consensual, with an individual under arrest or in custody, and use financial incentives to encourage states to enact the same prohibition.

Supporter Cedric Richmond, D-La., said, "America is burning and my [Republican] colleagues can't see, or they don't want to see, because of blind loyalty to a self-absorbed leader that lacks the character or concern to care. America is also weeping for the victims of excessive force by those sworn to protect and serve. She is crying for her American leadership to man up, to meet this moment and to write in the laws of this country once and for all that black lives do matter."

Opponent Tom McClintock, R-Calif., called the bill "an ideological laundry list of operational restrictions and procedures upon every police department in the country" that "ignores the most serious problem we face — the protection of bad cops by collective bargaining agreements that make it almost impossible to fire them." He added, "There are racists of every color in every society, it's the basest side of human nature. But no nation has struggled harder to transcend that nature and isolate and ostracize its racists than has America."

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting no: Bruce Westerman, R-4


Voting no: Louie Gohmert, R-1



Voting 180 for and 236 against, the House on June 25 defeated a bid to replace a Democratic-sponsored police bill (HR 7120, above) with a less extensive proposal by Senate Republicans (below). House Republicans said the Senate bill includes far-reaching reforms and could reach President Trump's desk this year, while Democrats called it unworthy of the Black Lives Matter movement because it lacks enforcement, omits certain reforms and favors study over action.

Pete Stauber, R-Wis., said the GOP bill "improves access to prior disciplinary records"¦restores investment incommunity policing¬¦invests in improved police training with a focus on de-escalation techniques, "increases funding for body-camera usage" and, overall, provides a real and much needed police reform.

Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, asked: "Where is the party of Lincoln? Where is the moment of courage when the slaves were freed in 1863? This Senate bill does not rise the occasion of those who are in the streets. .It does not contain any mechanism to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their misconduct. . In this bill, George Floyd would not have lived."

A yes vote was to embrace the Senate GOP police bill.


Voting yes: Westerman


Voting yes: Gohmert



Voting 238 for and 173 against, the House on June 26 failed to reach a two-thirds majority needed to override President Trump's veto of a measure (HJ Res 76) concerning an administration rule on student-loan forgiveness. The effect of the vote was to affirm a rule that critics said would provide forgiveness to only 3 percent of some 200,000 claimants who allege their school fraudulently misrepresented the quality of education they would receive. But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified that the rule would correct the "blanket forgiveness" of an Obama administration so-called "borrower defense" rule it replaced.

The Trump rule bars class-action lawsuits against schools and requires claims to be adjudicated one-by-one by mandatory arbitration rather than in open court, with borrowers prohibited from appealing the decision. The rule sets a standard of evidence requiring borrowers to prove the fraud was intentional.

A yes vote was to override the presidential veto.


Not voting: Westerman, R-4


Voting no: Louie Gohmert, R-1




Voting 232 for and 180 against, the House on June 26 passed a bill (HR 51) that would make the District of Columbia the 51st state, renamed as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. As a state, the new Washington, D.C., would acquire voting rights in Congress, with one representative and two senators, and would have control over property within its present boundaries with exceptions including the Capitol complex, national monuments, the Supreme Court, the National Mall and nearby federal buildings, the White House complex and assorted other lots and edifices. Created by the Constitution as the seat of government not within any state, and established initially on land carved out of Maryland and Virginia in 1790, the 68-square-mile District of Columbia, with about 700,000 residents, has limited self-government but is ultimately ruled by Congress.

Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the House "will vote today on whether hundreds of thousands of American citizens will finally have their voices counted in Congress. We will vote to honor the most fundamental principles of this nation and for which a revolution was launched — no taxation without representation and consent of the governed."

Jody Hice, R-Ga., said "what this is really all about is an attempt to get two more Democratic senators." He said Republicans "have the Constitution on our side" because "Congress does not have the authority to take this district and create a state out of it. At least one constitutional amendment would be required for that to happen."

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting no: Westerman


Voting no: Gohmert




By a vote of 55 for and 45 against, the Senate on June 24 failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a Republican-drafted bill aimed at improving federal, state and local policing. Democrats called the measure much weaker than their party's proposals in the Senate and House (above). Both parties would use federal funding of law enforcement as a lever to encourage state and local compliance.

The Republican bill would prohibit chokeholds as narrowly defined, in contrast to broader Democratic language in both chambers that would outlaw the use of a range of restraints on blood flow and breathing.

The GOP bill would establish one federal commission to study policing issues especially affecting black males, and another to recommend criminal justice reforms. The bill also sought to make lynching a federal crime; require police officers to wear a body camera; establish a federal database of officers fired for misconduct in order to make it difficult for them to get rehired elsewhere; require local departments to submit details on their use of force causing death or serious injury to a federal database, and fund diversity hiring and de-escalation training.

The Republican bill omits Democratic provisions to bar or scale back the "qualified immunity" defense in civil lawsuits against police officers, and to give the Department of Justice and state attorneys general more power to investigate local police departments for "pattern and practices" abuses. The Republican bill does not include a proposed ban on racial profiling that Democrats put in their bill, nor would it scale back the militarization of local police departments.

While the GOP bill requires local police departments to submit data on their use of no-knock warrants, Democrats would prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. In another difference, Republicans would require most information in a newly established FBI database on police misconduct to be shielded from public view, while both Democratic measures would open the database to the public.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, "Faced with the fact that policing is primarily a local and state, rather than a federal, concern, [Republicans] nevertheless found a variety of levers that Congress can pull to advance and incentivize and insist on the changes that we need to see. We need to encourage police departments across America to implement practical reforms like ending chokeholds, training their officers to de-escalate tense situations and having prior disciplinary records play a greater role in hiring."

Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said, "The police are the agents of the state. Holding police accountable and requiring justice in policing is just the first step. We must also confront the other manifestations of systemic racism and the institutions and societal norms that allow them to continue. We must dismantle them with the same deliberate actions that ingrain them in the first place. Tinkering with the system will not be enough. We need dramatic reforms in our criminal justice system."

A yes vote was to advance the GOP bill to debate and votes on amendments.


Voting yes: Tom Cotton, R, John Boozman, R


Voting yes: John Cornyn, R, Ted Cruz, R



Voting 52 for and 48 against, the Senate on June 24 confirmed Cory T. Wilson, a state judge in Mississippi, for a seat on the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over federal trial courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. President Trump has now appointed 53 federal appeals judges, about one-fourth of the circuit-court total. While Republicans praised Wilson's conservative views, Democrats criticized him over his opposition to LGBTQ rights and the Affordable Care Act and support of Mississippi's voter ID law and the carrying of concealed, loaded guns on public property including college campuses in his state.

Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., said, "there is no question that Judge Wilson will be a fair and impartial judge," adding that his confirmation "represents a pivotal point in the president's work to ensure there are more smart, conservative jurists in the federal judiciary."

Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said, "As a state legislator, Wilson voted for a bill that would allow businesses and people to deny services to LGBTQ individuals. The Human Rights Campaign called that bill 'the worst anti-LGBTQ state law in the U.S."'

A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.


Voting yes: Tom Cotton, R, John Boozman, R


Voting yes: John Cornyn, R, Ted Cruz, R



The Senate will debate the fiscal 2021 military budget in the week of June 29, while the House schedule was to be announced.

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