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What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act? Breaking down the bill and opposition

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives in February, but has yet to receive a vote in the evenly-split Senate. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff with an update on where things stand.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we have heard, the Chauvin guilty verdict is renewing interest in the push for a federal police reform bill.

    The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act did pass the Democratically-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in February, but it has yet to receive a vote in the evenly split Senate.

    To learn where things stand, we turn to our own Lisa Desjardins.

    So, Lisa, I know you have been looking into this. And you have been for some time. Right now, it does appear a members of both political parties say they see a need to do something about this. Tell us, what's on the table and what are the holdups?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, this is an absolutely pivotal moment in Congress on this issue.

    And I want to take you back last year, when we saw Senate Republicans pass one bill on this issue, led by Tim Scott of South Carolina. And that bill generally would gather data and figure out what needs to happen next.

    But Democrats passed the bill that you heard so much about from your experts just a minute ago, the George Floyd Policing Act. And that is really kind of the starting point bill. It's most pushed by Democrats, but it contains what really we're talking about on the table.

    So, let's take a look at what's in that again. The George Floyd Policing Reform Act would ban choke holds on a federal level and some no-knock warrants, especially in drug cases. And it would really put the pressure on states to do the same thing.

    Now, police under this law could be charged with criminal offenses if they act recklessly. That would be a new lower standard for charging police in their duties. And then, also, as you heard so much about, officers would no longer be immune, what you heard about there, from lawsuits. Families instead would be able to sue more ably and more quickly in courts for any unconstitutional actions against them by police.

    Now, what's happening now, behind the scenes, there are earnest talks happening. There are three main players here, one, Karen Bass, House member from California, former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, also Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. And then they're talking with Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, all of them really behind closed doors, which they all say they're optimistic that they can find a way forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, take us inside what you know about those negotiations. What exactly are they discussing?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We got a little bit of insight today.

    The key hangup is on this issue of qualified immunity that we're talking about. Let's look at where things stand and what the issue is here. Democrats' bill, that George Floyd Act, again, it says that, again, officers could be sued for their conduct on the job.

    The Republicans' bill last year said, no, officers should remain immune from lawsuits. Now, it seemed like a red line. But Tim Scott, today, the Republican said he thinks there could be a compromise with the idea of loosening the standard to sue police forces themselves, while still protecting individual officers.

    Now, Karen Bass says there may be some issues with union protections as well for officers that could be on the table. So they think they can get a deal by the end of May. We will see.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins reporting on this critical moment.

    Lisa, thank you.

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