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Bipartisan group to hold police reform talks as George Floyd Act stalls in Senate

Representative Karen Bass, a Democrat from California and chair of the Democratic Black Caucus, speaks during an event with members of the Democratic caucus on the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol before a vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lawmakers from both parties will join police reform talks Thursday as Congress tries to craft a bill that can get through a narrowly divided Capitol.

Eight senators and representatives plan to discuss policing changes in formal talks, a congressional aide confirmed to CNBC. The negotiations will follow discussions involving Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.

Bass is the lead author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the Democratic-held House passed last year and for a second time in March. Republicans oppose the bill, which has stalled in a Senate split 50-50 by party.

Scott led a Republican proposal that Democrats blocked last year in the Senate, at the time controlled by the GOP. As bills need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, legislation has to garner at least some support from both parties in the chamber.

It is unclear what could win support from Democrats and Republicans, who have differing views on how far the federal government should go to root out violence against Black Americans and abuses of power in policing.

Scott, Booker and Bass will all attend the talks Thursday afternoon, NBC News reported. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., will join them along with two House Republicans, according to NBC.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, George Floyd’s brother Philonise and other family members of victims of police violence separately met Thursday with Scott and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

George Floyd, a Black man, died in May after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for about nine minutes. Chauvin was convicted on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter earlier this month.

Floyd’s death, along with the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, in Louisville, Kentucky, last year, sparked the biggest outcries for racial justice and police reform in the U.S. in decades. During his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden called on lawmakers to pass a policing bill by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death next month.

“The country supports this reform and Congress should act,” the president said. He has backed the House-passed legislation.

The bill approved by Democrats aims to ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level, and would tie state and local police funding to those departments barring the practices. It seeks to weaken so-called qualified immunity, which shields officers from many civil lawsuits, and aims to make it easier to prosecute police.

Scott’s plan last year called for more limited bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants. His party at the time resisted efforts to change qualified immunity rules. Democrats called his bill inadequate.

In recent weeks, the senator has reportedly floated a compromise that would make departments rather than individual officers the subject of civil lawsuits.

Neither the Democratic nor Republican proposals would cut police funding. Activists and many progressive lawmakers have called since Floyd’s death to redirect some money from law enforcement to social services.

Many major U.S. cities have either reformed policing practices or reduced funding for police in the last year.

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