6.11.2020 Washington Update

Policing Reform

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, both the House and Senate are working on policing reform proposals.  It is too early to say whether both chambers and the White House can agree on legislation, but work is proceeding in earnest.

Democrats earlier this week introduced the “Justice in Policing Act.”  The legislation takes steps to end racial profiling, ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, limit the use of military equipment by local law enforcement, and require that body cameras be worn by police.  It would also make it easier to prosecute offending officers by amending the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct and would reform qualified immunity for law enforcement.  It also promotes new investigations in police misconduct, provides grants for community-based organizations to create task forces to reform public safety approaches, creates training programs, collect new data on police misconduct, make lynching a federal crime, and establishes new law enforcement accreditation standards.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Justice in Policing Act and then markup the legislation.  The plan then is for the full House to return June 25 and June 26 to vote on the legislation.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH) is working on a House Republican package that is expected to be released this week.  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is prepared to engage on the issue.  Notably, Leader McCarthy has a very strong working relationship with Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), who is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, dating back to their time as colleagues in the California State Assembly more than a decade ago.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has taken the lead in developing a Senate Republican package.  Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and James Lankford (R-OK) are working with him.  White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner are working with Sen. Scott as well.  Thus far, the focus of the working group has centered around making lynching a federal crime, pushing states to report police use of force, expanding data collection on no-knock search warrants, providing incentives to recruit diverse officers, providing funding for body cameras, and creating a new criminal justice commission.  The goal is to produce legislation by the end of the week.

The Justice in Policing Act is backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who are calling on Senate Republican leaders to take up the legislation after passage in the House.  It’s unclear whether Senate Democratic and Republican members can negotiate a bipartisan agreement after all proposals are made public.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has introduced a Senate resolution calling for justice for George Floyd and also opposing efforts to defund the police.  Majority Leader McConnell is a co-sponsor of the resolution; Cotton wants to pass the resolution by unanimous consent today.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning a hearing on police use of force and community relations next Tuesday.

We expect police reform policies will also be debated during consideration of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bills as well as on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


NDAA and Appropriations

The Senate Armed Services Committee is marking up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) today.  Following the markup, the legislative text of the bill is expected to be made public.  The full Senate could take up the measure during the week of June 22.  We expect an open amendment process for the bill.  The House Armed Services Committee will begin subcommittee markups June 22 and June 23.  A full committee markup will be on July 1.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to begin markups the week of June 22.  The House is currently planning to conduct subcommittee and full committee markups during the weeks of July 6 and July 13.  House floor consideration of appropriations bills are likely to be the weeks of July 20 and July 27 and will likely move as two “minibuses,” with Labor-HHS and Defense wrapped into one of the packages.

Given the late start of the appropriations process, we still expect a short-term continuing resolution at the end of September to punt any potential bicameral agreements into the lame-duck session of Congress.


Surface Transportation

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a surface transportation infrastructure bill as opposed to a broader package that has been discussed.  It is slated to be marked up on June 17 and be considered on the floor of the House in July.  Due to controversial climate provisions, moving the bill through the process will likely be a partisan exercise.  Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) has said that the House bill is nowhere close to a workable bipartisan proposal and he continues to advocate for his legislation which still requires additional legislative provisions from the Senate Commerce, Senate Banking and Senate Finance Committees.

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