The White House on Tuesday rushed to join Senate Republicans in their effort to put together police reform legislation.
President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and senior adviser Jared Kushner went to Capitol Hill for a last-minute meeting with Tim Scott, the GOP’s only black senator, who Senate Republicans put in charge of their police reform efforts after the White House remained silent on the issue.
‘It’s a work in progress, so it was a real good conversation,’ Meadows said after the meeting. They were joined by Ja’Ron Smith, an African American staffer who works on legislative policy in the White House.
‘We want to let our actions speak louder than words,’ he added but declined to give a time line on when legislation could drop. ‘We’re hopeful for something sooner rather than later.’
The move to work with Senators on legislative could be the White House way of ruling out a presidential address to the nation, which was one option being discussed as a means for President Trump to respond to the racial tension that has flared up around the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Scott declined to offer details of what was discussed.
‘We’re making progress,’ he said after the meeting.
The administration’s visit to Capitol Hill came as President Trump’s poll numbers have dropped with a majority of Americans criticizing his response to the protests which took place after the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Meadows refused to talk about what would be in a Republican police reform bill.
‘We’re not going to get into specifics. To negotiate in the press would do a disservice to the senator and his colleagues as well as some of the House members that are trying to be thoughtful,’ he said.
Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, led the administration’s successful efforts on criminal justice reform last year.
Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, sounded hopeful the Senate, the White House and Democrats could come together on the issue. Democrats unveiled their measure on Monday.
‘We are on a separate track from the White House,’ he told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday before his meeting with the administration.
But he said he was in talks with the staff there and hopeful that all parties would come together.
‘I have been talking with folks in the White House about the track that they’re on as well. I think there is some synergy between all three tracks to be honest with you, and certainly there’s a way for us all to work together but we’ve been in discussion with them for several days,’ Scott added.
He kept an optimistic note.
‘I think we should all be optimistic right now,’ Scott said. ‘We have no reason not to be.’
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell tapped Scott to lead a working group of Republicans to hammer out a legislative response to the protests that have taken place across the country in the wake of Floyd’s death.
‘None of us have had the experience of being an African American in this country and dealing with discrimination, which persists here some 50 years after the 1964 civil rights bill and 1965 civil rights bill,’ McConnell said a press conference on Tuesday.
‘We’re still wrestling with America’s original sin. And we try to get better, but every now and then it’s perfectly clear, we’re a long way from the finish line,’ he added.
Pressure is on lawmakers, who stopped waiting on action from President Donald Trump to move forward on their own.
A new Washington Post-Schar School poll out Monday found 74 per cent of Americans say they support those protests while 69 per cent say the killing of Floyd represents a broader problem within law enforcement.
The same poll found 61 per cent disapprove of how Trump handled the protests while only 35 per cent approved, while November election polls show him far behind Joe Biden, raising alarm in the GOP Senate that their majority is at risk too.
Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill are working on their own police reform measures with a number of them expected to drop legislation this week.
Scott and Romney made the first moves, coming after Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory that a 75-year-old victim of police violence was an ‘antifa provocateur’ and calling ’99 per cent’ of police ‘great.’
Democrats presented their plan on Monday and there are a number of areas where both sides agree, including a ban on chokeholds, making lynching a federal crime, a national database to track police officers who get in trouble and increased training for law enforcement officials.
Republicans have their own group of lawmakers working together on a plan. Joining Scott are Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, who is close to Trump; Ben Sasse; James Lankford; John Cornyn; and Shelley Capito.
Scott, as part of his work, is pushing the George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, an expansion of legislation he had introduced in 2015, which would require states that receive federal police funding to report incidents when police shoot someone, including names, race and a description of what happened.
‘It’s still a work in progress. A lot is being added to it,’ Romney said Tuesday of Republicans’ legislative efforts.
Romney was praised by Democrats and Republicans alike when he joined protesters in Washington D.C. on Sunday, marching with them from the Capitol to the White House to show his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘My guess is we’ll try and fashion something that that has broader bipartisan appeal,’ the Republican senator from Utah said on Monday evening.
He also said Democrats have not contacted him or any other Republicans he’s spoken to about their legislation and he urged both sides to work together. The Democratic measure has 200 sponsors but none of them are Republicans.
‘We have some members that are part of a working group that are taking a look at different proposals that are out there,’ Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
‘There seems to be a lot of momentum behind this right now, and if we can keep driving it forward maybe we can get to a point where we can actually legislate, and in a bipartisan way which would be ideal,’ he noted.
Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who is also part of the working group, said the team is in the process of soliciting ideas.
‘It’s a work in motion,’ she said. ‘We’re still soliciting ideas and refinements and all that. It generally tries to go to both parts of the issue, both the policing part and the issues of racial discrimination and how to address those,’ she said.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Emily Goodin