“When I try to sleep at night I can only dream in red. The outside world is black and white with only one color dead.” — Peter Gabriel
In keeping with the theme of yesterday’s post, the House of Representatives continues to apply pressure to the Senate and to the country in general to do the people’s business. On Wednesday, the House passed the George Floyd Police Reform Bill by a narrow 220-212 margin. Of course, just hearing the headline doesn’t really give you the details.
The bill does three major things that people have overwhelmingly asked for. First, it outlaws choke holds and no knock warrants. Those two things alone have been responsible for numerous high profile deaths in the past several years. That includes Floyd and Breonna Taylor specifically.
The biggest part of the bill was a motion to eliminate qualified immunity. Essentially, this is a measure that gives police officers extra protections when a suspect dies or is seriously injured. Eliminating qualified immunity would allow prosecutors to freely charge police officers when their negligence or brutality leads to a suspect’s death or injury.
Ironically, the House passed a similar version back in June, but that version died in the Senate because Mitch McConnell refused to take it up. That’s usually what happens to House legislation. The irony is that the June version got more bipartisan support than this version did.
According to Vox, even in 2019 the backlog had reached over 400. So, this bill is yet another example of a much larger issue. Sure, there is the issue of issue framing. Progressives are horrible at branding. The moniker of “defund the police” was a blunder of epic proportions. It’s the kind of unforced error we can’t afford to have.
This bill doesn’t do any of that. It simply aims to improve police techniques and simply hold them accountable for their bad acts. I do not have carte blanche to grab a kid and choke them for not turning in a term paper. Even if I am attempting to subdue a violent student or deescalate a student that is out of control I am still liable for what I do if I don’t follow certain procedures. The bill just asks the police to live by the same rules.
So, this bill is an important bill, but they are all important. The people deserve better and the Senate isn’t currently giving it to them. If I were the House I would damn the torpedoes and continue to pass legislation. Sure, most of it might go to die, but I would broadcast that fact over and over and over and over and over again.
As for the Senate, people should know that filibuster isn’t something the framer of the constitution codified into law. They didn’t foresee the filibuster as it is nothing more than a rule each body dreamed up after the fact. The House has a Rules Committee that establishes rules for debate for each individual bill. The Senate doesn’t have that. So, debate is considered to be unlimited until a motion is called to end it.
If you eliminate the filibuster you aren’t trampling the ghost of James Madison or making Thomas Jefferson turn over in his grave. Neither of them would have known a filibuster if it fell out of the sky, on their face, and wiggled. You are simply making the Senate do its work.
An overwhelming majority want police reform. This is the same overwhelming majority that wants a higher minimum wage and Coronavirus relief. There is an easy compromise to the filibuster rule. Simply put, if the House passes a bill then the Senate has to address within a certain timeframe. They don’t have to pass it. They certainly can pass their own version of it as well. Simply put, the people deserve to be heard on the issue.
This is how McConnell (in his infinite wisdom) has managed to wield so much control and keep his members out of harm’s way. If 70 or 80 percent of the public want something then his members will look bad voting against it. So, he makes sure that will never happen. Hogwash. It’s time to rip off the security blanket. If you are against police reform, the minimum wage, common sense gun control, and infrastructure updates then you have to tell your constituents that and convince them that they are wrong and you are right. You will need to convince them that the contributions the NRA, big business, or the Koch’s are more important than what they want.
That’s how this hold finally breaks. Either reforms and changes get past both chambers of Congress or the people know directly who supported their wishes and who didn’t. That way, they can vote out those individuals instead of simply hiding behind parliamentarian tricks and slight of hand. There’s nothing magical about the filibuster. The eyes of the world are watching now.