By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Democrats on Monday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to step back from an expected vote on Republican police reform legislation, saying lawmakers should instead try to hammer out a bipartisan package through negotiation.
In comments suggesting they could block a key procedural vote expected on Wednesday, Democrats said the bill put forward by Senator Tim Scott, the chamber’s only black Republican, was too limited to drive the reforms needed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.
“If we really want to do serious work on a serious matter, we ought to be having discussions, right now. That’s not what Mitch wants,” Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono told reporters.
Added Democratic Senator Joe Manchin: “First, step back. Step back.”
The House of Representatives is due to vote on more sweeping Democratic legislation on Thursday.
Nearly a month after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, neither the Republican nor Democratic measures appeared to have enough bipartisan support to win approval from both chambers and be signed into law by Republican President Donald Trump.
Floyd’s death, after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked weeks of protests worldwide.
With strong public sentiment for stopping excessive force by police, especially against African-Americans, many are urging Congress to seize the opportunity to quickly pass legislation.
Last week Trump signed an executive order aimed at guiding police reforms https://www.reuters.com/article/us-minneapolis-police-congress-legislati/factbox-whats-the-difference-between-three-u-s-plans-for-police-reform-idUSKBN23O3KW.
McConnell strongly endorsed the Republican bill on Monday, before filing papers for a vote to limit debate that would require 60 votes in a chamber where Republican control only 53 seats. Democrats could prevent the Senate from moving to the bill by voting against the motion.
“For anyone who actually wants to legislate, it will not be a difficult call to vote to begin considering Senator Scott’s legislation,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
(Reporting by David Morgan and Lisa Lambert; editing by Richard Cowan, Grant McCool and Lincoln Feast.)