Lawmakers are trying to figure out how to respond to almost a week of nationwide protests triggered by the killing of Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed while he was detained by Minneapolis police, that revived the conversation about racial inequity and the use of excessive force by police officers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “there may be a role” for lawmakers.
“We’ll be talking to our colleagues about what, if anything, is appropriate for us to do,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.
Other GOP senators appeared more skeptical about legislation, underscoring potential obstacles in the Republican-controlled chamber.
“I don’t think so,” Senator Jim Inhofe said, asked if he thought Congress would pass reform legislation. “I highly suspect it would be political.”
Senator John Cornyn, an adviser to McConnell, said that law enforcement reform legislation was “opportunistic” and “misses the point.”
“This idea that we somehow are going to paint all of the law enforcement with a brush of racism is outrageous in and of itself and it’s obviously designed to divide the country further,” Cornyn said about the prospects for legislation.
In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer estimated that approximately fifty pieces of legislation were currently under discussion and that the Congressional Black Caucus will take the lead on proposing a package. While the House isn’t scheduled to hold votes until the end of the month, he didn’t rule out that they could return earlier if they come up with an agreement.
“We’ll be coming together in support of those initiatives, and I expect that to happen in the near future. …If, in fact, legislation is proposed by the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, and is considered by the committee and ready to go, we will then call all the members back to pass … that legislation,” Hoyer told reporters.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that Democrats disagree over whether the goal should be sweeping legislation or something which might have a better chance of becoming law.
“In a matter of just a short time, those decisions will be made and I think the American people will be well-served,” Pelosi said.
Hoyer specifically pointed out legislation, sponsored by Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, to ban police “chokeholds.” And Pelosi said efforts to root out racial profiling would be at the forefront.