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House passes package of policing and public safety measures, bolstering vulnerable Democrats

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed a package of police defunding and public safety bills, legislation that will help vulnerable Democrats mitigate attacks from the GOP campaign that they want to “defund the police” and ignore the rise in crime.

The legislative package “makes it very clear that we are getting the backs of law enforcement… [that] we need to invest — not defund — to protect our communities and protect our officers,” said moderate Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., who is being targeted by Republicans this fall and negotiated the package with top progressives and leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus. .

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., at a news conference in New York on Aug. 15.John Minchillo / AP File

Four police and security bills passed after last-minute intra-party drama earlier in the day. Even though the package was brokered by Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., others on the left had threatened to overthrow the floor debate rule on the legislation. Had they followed through, it would have derailed the entire package and dealt an embarrassing blow to Democrats on a major campaign issue ahead of the midterms.

After a two-hour delay, the rule passed 216-215, but not before a handful of progressives took on Gottheimer’s bill to fund small police departments. Progressives said they wanted more police accountability measures before sending more money to departments, and they objected that Gottheimer’s bill hadn’t gone through committee before leaders do not put it to the vote.

“I fundamentally reject the timing of the bill, and I will be voting no on the Gottheimer bill,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., a member of the group of progressive Democrats known as “The Team “. final votes.

All four bills were drafted by moderate Democrats in competitive races in November.

House passes package of policing and public safety measures, bolstering vulnerable Democrats

Bill Gottheimer, which easily passed 360-64, would provide grants to police departments with fewer than 125 sworn officers. Another measure, sponsored by Rep. Katie Porter of California, passed 223-206; it would provide grants for mental health professionals and other resources.

The other two bills were drafted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The first, by Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, which passed 220-207, would fund nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations that work to reduce crime. The other, by Rep. Val Demings of Florida, who is trying to unseat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in November, would provide police grants to help solve gun crimes. It went 250-178.

“We’re not the ‘defund’ party, and hardly anyone in our party believes in defund,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “Republicans, of course, don’t care about facts — they know it’s a lie. We fund the police, and they don’t.

But he also added: “We want performance and accountability.”

The agreement on the policing package came after months of difficult negotiations between Gottheimer, co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, and the Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. , as well as Omar, a member of the Black Caucus who is also part of “the team”.

Omar, who represents the Minneapolis district where police killed George Floyd in 2020, said the policing bills “create a pathway for our communities to be safe and feel safe.”

“We are proud of the work that we have been able to do here collectively as democrats with different ideologies,” she told reporters. “And I think that’s the start of hopefully a process that we can continue to engage in.”

But it’s unclear what happens to the package now. Although the Senate supports some of the bills, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., has no plans to propose a policing package before the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Jayapal said, “If we could control the Senate, things would be very different.”

Kate Santaliz and Sahil Kapour contributed.

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