Democrats unveiled a major police reform bill Monday amid nationwide protests over police brutality after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., unveiled the sweeping bill after joining Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., and other top Democrats in kneeling on the floor while wearing kente scarves for nearly nine minutes. Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for the same amount of time before he died.
"We're here, because black Americans want to stop being killed," Harris said at a subsequent news conference. "Reforming policing is in the best interest of all Americans."
"The world is witnessing the birth of a new movement in our country," Bass added. "A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession where you have highly-trained officers accountable to the public."
Hoyer said the House may be able to vote on the legislation before the end of June, though he was pessimistic about the legislation's chances in the Republican-led Senate.
The bill would ban "no-knock" warrants in drug-related cases, bar police chokeholds nationwide, create a federal database to track police misconduct, limit military equipment to police departments, make it easier to prosecute police officers and require departments to undergo racial bias training, Politico reported. The bill would also make lynching a federal hate crime after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blocked a similar piece of legislation in the Senate over concerns that the definition of "lynching" was too broad.
Republicans have alleged that Democrats want to "defund" the police, which many protest groups have called for during the demonstrations. The Minneapolis City Council has already vowed to dismantle the city's police department and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would shift funding for police to social services.
Bass on Monday pushed back on President Donald Trump's "law and order" messaging.
"I think for us, especially when it comes to this legislation, we feel that it is transformative — that it will transform the relationships our communities have with the police," she said. "And I think for the 'law and order' message the president is spewing out of there, there's nothing new about that message, and I do not believe it will be successful."
Bass on Sunday told CNN she does not "believe that you should disband police departments," but states "need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities."
Harris also acknowledged that there was a "broader issue that is not being addressed in this bill."
"The real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in those communities," she said, "in affordable housing, in the ability for homeownership, jobs, funding for public schools, giving people access to capital so they can grow those small businesses that are part of the leadership and health of these communities."
Schumer called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the bill to a vote by July 4.
"In the Senate, Democrats are going to fight like hell to make this a reality," he said. "Leader McConnell, let's have the debate. Not just on TV and Twitter but on the floor of the United States Senate. A divided nation cannot wait for healing, for solutions."
As Republicans criticized Democrats over growing calls to defund the police, some on the left criticized the party for not being more aggressive in its response to police brutality.
"Instead of kneeling, I want Democrats to be bold and unite over policies that will reform the system," CNN and New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali tweeted. "If they can't do it, then it's just a performance."
"Anyone who is supporting this bill or 'giving democrats credit' for this bill is not serious about the goal of ending police violence against black people. Full stop," journalist Ben Geier wrote. "Are there steps in between where we are and police abolition? Sure. But this isn't it. This is throwing money to police to do the same sh*t they've already tried that doesn't work."