WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans at a news conference Wednesday unveiled proposed changes to police procedures and accountability.
The White House signaled President Donald Trump's support as Republicans crafted the "Justice Act," in response to the numerous public protests over the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised speedy action next week, when the House will be voting on the Democratic plan. That puts the two bills on a collision course, but the momentum of suddenly shifting American attitudes is driving both.
"We hear you," Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said at a news conference with GOP colleagues at the Capitol. As a black Republican senator, he had asked leadership for a say in the bill and was tapped to craft it.
The outlook is extremely fluid, as both parties see a need to meet the moment after graphic cellphone videos and a public outcry over police killings sparked a worldwide movement against racism and police violence.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized the GOP legislation as "inadequate." But she also said House Democrats "hope to work in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that creates meaningful change to end the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality in America."
The House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, began to mark up the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill named for the man who died last month after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
In the Senate, McConnell is pushing the Republican bill ahead of other priorities.
"We are serious about making a law," said the GOP leader, whose home state of Kentucky has faced unrest over the officer-involved killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.
The two parties' bills take similar but not identical approaches to the core issues of police accountability and procedures as Congress delves into the problems of excessive use of force and the treatment of members of minority groups.
Central to both packages is a beefed-up database on use-of-force incidents, so officers' records can be tracked even when they transfer from one department to another.
That's also a priority for Trump, who signed an executive order Tuesday on a similar plan.
The GOP legislation would increase requirements for law enforcement agencies to compile use-of-force reports under a new George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, named for Floyd and Scott, a South Carolina man shot by police after a traffic stop in 2015. Scott was not related to the senator.
The Republican package would also establish the Breonna Taylor Notification Act to track "no-knock" warrants. The Louisville, Ky., woman was killed when police used a no-knock warrant to enter her home.
The Democratic bill would go further by changing the federal statute governing police misconduct to include officers engaging in "reckless" actions.
Both bills would seek to change police procedures -- doing away with chokeholds, which are already banned by many departments, or mandating the use of body cameras -- and would bolster training to prevent officers from engaging in excessive force or racial profiling.
While the Republican package encourages many of the changes in policing tactics, by either taking away funds if departments fail to comply or by providing funds to implement changes, the Democratic bill often would make the changes mandatory.
The GOP package also would establish a "duty to intervene" protocol in response to Floyd's death. Other officers stood by as Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the man's neck.
Scott said he himself had been stopped by police more than 18 times -- including once this year for a failure to signal long enough before a turn -- and he urged colleagues to understand it's "not a binary choice" between supporting law enforcement officers or members of minority groups.
Since first proposing changes five years ago, he said, the mood of the country has shifted.
"America is fed up with this situation," Scott said in an interview. "It's no longer African Americans, the black community, that's out there protesting. ... The picture that we see today is, America says enough is enough."
But Democrats criticized the Republican legislation, with Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer saying it "does not rise to the moment" and would provide less accountability than the House Democrats' version.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called the GOP bill a "sham." Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus who led the Democratic effort, said the GOP approach "definitely mimics parts of ours but without the teeth."
One key area of disagreement is over ending "qualified immunity" for officers to make it easier for those injured by police to seek damages in lawsuits.
The Democratic bill includes the provision, but the White House has said it is a line too far that Trump will not support.
As Senate Republicans released their 106-page legislation, the House Judiciary Committee was considering the much broader Democratic proposal before an expected House vote next week.
On Tuesday, McConnell said the House bill seeks too much control from Washington.
During Wednesday's news conference, Scott argued that there is a lot of overlap in the parties' approaches.
"Every lever of government wants change, and most of us want about 70% of the same change," he said. "We achieve some of the same ends by our approach."
He cited chokeholds as an example, saying the GOP bill is "by default a ban" because of the threat of taking away federal funding.
He said Senate Republicans want to collect more data on no-knock warrants before making the kind of sweeping policy changes that House Democrats have proposed.
Republicans in the Senate will need support from some Democrats to move forward with the bill. It was not immediately clear if enough would come on board for that to happen.
"If we don't have the votes on a motion to proceed, that means politics is more important than restoring confidence in communities of color and the institutions of authority," Scott said.
During his floor remarks, Schumer gave no clear signal about whether Democrats would attempt a filibuster.
"This is not [about] letting the perfect be the enemy of the good," he said. "This is about making the ineffective the enemy of the effective."
The Democratic-written bill, which has 227 co-sponsors in the House and 36 in the Senate, would ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants, among other initiatives. It also contains several provisions that would make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct in civil and criminal court.
Despite the differences, the GOP effort seeks to reach across the aisle to Democrats in several ways. It includes one long-sought bill to make lynching a federal hate crime and another to launch a study of the social status of black men and boys that has been touted by Pelosi.
WHITE HOUSE SUPPORT
The Republican package -- dubbed the "Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act of 2020" -- also would include a bipartisan Senate proposal to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission and would extend funding streams for various federal law enforcement programs, including the COPS grant program that's important to states.
The package includes a mix of other proposals, including tapping the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture to create a law enforcement training curriculum on "the history of racism in the United States." Another would close a loophole to prohibit federal law enforcement officers from engaging in sexual acts with those being arrested or in custody.
Expenditures for the bill would be considered on an emergency basis, so as not to count against federal deficits.
Scott also voiced hope that "the president will join forces and jump on board."
During a television appearance Wednesday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump wants to sign legislation addressing the issue of police policy.
"We're very pleased and very heartened that the Congress is moving very quickly," she said. "A 100-page bill tells you how seriously and how earnestly people are working on this on Capitol Hill, and the president's made clear, he will look at the legislation and sign into law something that meets this moment."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump "is fully in support of" the GOP bill.
At a Rose Garden event Tuesday on his executive actions, Trump declared himself "committed to working with Congress on additional measures."
TRACKING USE OF FORCE
Trump also rolled out an executive order on Tuesday aimed at offering new federal incentives for police departments to boost training and to create a national database to track officer misconduct.
The Justice Department will use key grants to encourage local police departments to establish certain "best practices."
Regarding chokeholds, the executive order seeks to bar them "except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law."
The FBI already has a database -- and so far a majority of police are not participating in it.
The FBI launched that program, the National Use-of-Force Data Collection project, last year. But many police agencies have not responded to the voluntary call for information about their officers -- only 40% submitted their data for 2019, the FBI said.
And the database has yet to be published. The first report is planned for this summer.
For decades, the FBI has collected crime data from police departments across the country, in its Uniform Crime Reports, and participation there is nearly 100%. But as with the annual crime reports, participation in the use-of-force project is voluntary.
Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said of the 40% participation rate that "My strong hunch is it's the much smaller agencies, that have had no use-of-force incidents that qualify, that are simply not responding." But knowing which agencies aren't using force on citizens is also important to know, Rosenfeld said. "And there's no requirement to respond," he added.
Information for this article was contributed by Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking, Jim Mustian, Colleen Long, Padmananda Rama and Hilary Powell of The Associated Press; and by Seung Min Kim, Paul Kane, Tom Jackman and Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post.