House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted in an interview Tuesday that Republicans are “trying to get away with murder, actually — the murder of George Floyd” — marking a dramatic escalation in rhetoric as the Democrat-controlled House prepares to pass its police reform package.
Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking to CBS News Radio correspondent Steve Futterman, said Senate Republicans’ reform proposals in the wake of Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis were “unsalvageable” and won’t make “any difference.”
Specifically, Pelosi said Democrats want a total ban on chokeholds, which Attorney General William Barr has also suggested he would support. But, Pelosi said, some Republicans are waffling on the issue.
“For something to happen, they’re going to have to face the realities of police brutalities, the realities of the need for justice in policing, and the recognition that there’s many good people in law enforcement, but not all. And that we have to address those concerns,” she said.
“So, when they admit that, and have some suggestions that are worthy of consideration — but so far they were trying to get away with murder, actually — the murder of George Floyd,” Pelosi continued.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., second from left, and others, speaks at a news conference to announce a Republican police reform bill on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rather than press the issue, Futterman then quickly asked Pelosi about how she feels about nationwide “Defund the Police” efforts. But Pelosi’s remark — and Futterman’s failure to challenge Pelosi’s statement — prompted a swift backlash.
“That’s gotta be the most outrageous thing she’s said in at least a few weeks,” said Mark Whitlock, a National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) senior advisor. “Genuinely shocked the Speaker didn’t get any pushback after that line as well.”
Added commentator Stephen Miller: “George Floyd was murdered in a city run by a Democrat mayor since 1973, whose police chief was appointed by a Democrat, in a state with two Democrat Senators, and hasn’t voted for a Republican President since Nixon. Completely insane she can say something like this unchallenged.”
Instead, Pelosi went on to discuss the importance of keeping an open mind on reallocating police resources.
“I think people mean different things,” Pelosi responded. “Of course, public safety is our first responsibility. We have to keep the American people safe; but we want to do it in a way that keeps everyone safe. And there are many ways to do that. Does it mean police officers should be social workers? Does it mean they should be referees in family disputes, and the rest? No, maybe we can distribute some resources in a way that really meet the safety needs of the American people.”
Meanwhile, Congress on Tuesday hit an impasse on policing legislation, as key Senate Democrats opposed a Republican proposal as inadequate.
“We have Chuck Schumer with a chokehold on the Justice Act and our opportunity for police reform in America,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said Wednesday.
“This is a profound moment, it is a moral moment,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a co-author of the Democrats’ proposal. “The call is for us to act.”
Speaking to Futterman, Pelosi echoed Booker’s concerns.
Ahead of a test vote Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., acknowledged it may fall short of the 60 votes needed to survive a filibuster. If so, he vowed to try again, hoping to pass legislation before a July 4 holiday recess.
“This is not about them or us,” said Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate and author of the GOP bill. It’s about young people and others, he said, “who are afraid to jog down the street or get in their car and drive.”
The GOP’s Justice Act would create a national database of police use-of-force incidents, restrict police chokeholds and set up new training procedures and commissions to study race and law enforcement. It is not as sweeping as a Democratic proposal, which mandates many of the changes and would hold police liable to damages in lawsuits. There are similarities on some issues, lawmakers say, but also vast differences.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and top Democrats signaled they would oppose the Republican bill as “not salvageable,” as they demand negotiations on a new, bipartisan package with more extensive changes to law enforcement tactics and accountability aligned with their own Democratic bill.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly and Marisa Schultz contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.