McConnell on the JUSTICE Act: We Want to Make A Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding police reform:

“While the House of Representatives continues to be absent, the Senate continues to be open for business.

“While taking smart precautions, Senators have stood with all the other essential workers who are continuing to man essential posts. And so, as our nation continues to work through medical, economic, and social challenges of historic proportions, the Senate has been able to lead on serious action to help our nation heal.

“The killings of Black Americans such as Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have rightly accelerated the national conversation on policing and racial justice. Large majorities of Americans support new steps that would help the vast majority of good, decent, and brave law enforcement officers re-earn the trust of Black Americans for their vital institutions.

“We need to be a country where communities of color feel confident that the police are there to safeguard their rights to equal justice and equal protection under law, and not to infringe on those rights.

“To that end, while the Constitution means many of the specifics of police reform are primarily state and local issues, there is enormous appetite in the Senate to incentivize change and move towards greater progress using federal policy.

“The junior Senator for South Carolina has led the development of a strong new proposal. The JUSTICE Act is informed by data, by the facts, by stories from across America, and sadly, by his own lived experience. It enjoys the support of forty six co-sponsors already.

“The legislation Senator Scott has put forward identifies productive ways that Congress can encourage and incentivize smart police reform efforts in communities across the nation.

“Recognizing the urgent need for greater accountability, it supports expanded use of body cameras, and expanded review and disciplinary measures to back them up.

“Recognizing the need for more transparency, it steps up efforts to establish thorough records of police activities and requires full federal reporting of all incidents involving the discharge of a service weapon.

“The bill takes immediate action to help end departments’ reliance on chokeholds and to facilitate enhanced training for de-escalation. It includes further steps to protect the physical safety of people in custody and to finally make lynching a federal crime.

“And it lays out new requirements for departments to explain their policies on how, when, and why no-knock warrants are used. On behalf of the many people looking for answers in my hometown of Louisville, I am unfortunately especially interested in that provision.

“Now, in recent weeks, the Democratic Leader and many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have insisted over and over again that they wanted to consider legislation on this subject prior to the 4th of July. My friend the Democratic Leader repeatedly expressed how eager he was to consider these issues here on the Senate floor.

“But now, we read this. Quote: “Senate Democrats are agonizing over what to do about Senate Republicans’ police reform proposal.”

“And this. Quote: “[The] Senate Democratic Leader…faces a tough call on whether to let a Republican-backed police reform bill advance on the Senate floor…”

“Agonizing”? A “tough call”?

“It seems to me that proceeding to consider Senator Scott’s legislation, proceeding to take up this subject on the Senate floor, would only be an agonizing prospect if members were more interested in making political points than in actually making a law.

“For anyone who actually wants to legislate, it will not be a difficult call to vote to begin considering Senator Scott’s legislation. It will be exactly the vote which this moment demands.

“Last week, I understand the Speaker of the House herself said, quote, “We’d like to end up in conference” on police reform legislation. Even the Speaker does not seem to understand why Senate Democrats would block this chamber from even considering the JUSTICE Act.

“So Senator Scott and Senate Republicans want to make a law. The President and the Administration want to make a law. And even the Democratic House leadership apparently would be happy to see a conference committee.

“The only group left in Washington D.C. that are reportedly agonizing over whether to block a discussion of police reform or let it proceed seem to be our Senate Democratic colleagues.

“I hope that whatever strange political calculations are making this difficult for our friends across the aisle will yield to common sense and to the American people’s hunger for progress.

“We will find out when we vote later this week.”

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