“It’s about getting to yes”: Inside the police funding impasse between House Democrats
Frontliners hoped to bolster their public safety bona fides when members returned this week only to run into a coalition of Black and progressive lawmakers focused on law-enforcement accountability.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
House Democratic leadership has once again punted a series of police funding bills proposed by so-called frontline Democrats in a handful of swing districts that could decide the balance of power after the November midterm elections.
Frontliners are looking to defend themselves from Republican attacks that Democrats are soft on crime with legislation that bolsters law-enforcement budgets. But members of the Black and Progressive Caucuses and civil rights leaders have opposed these measures because they lack the accountability provisions that would foster trust between officers and the communities that have historically been overlooked, underserved and targeted by law enforcement.
“As they’re written now, they’re not going to get passed,” a senior Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations told Supercreator on Wednesday afternoon. “Let’s keep talking. There’s no reason to jam this through this week. And let’s make sure that everyone can have a chance to be a part of these conversations.”
The aide said that the Black and progressive Democrats, to whom I’ll refer as the Accountability Caucus going forward, have known for a while that Frontliners wanted a vote on the package because communities feel like crime is going up and they want Congress to act on it.
But the goal of the Accountability Caucus is to pass legislation that brings people together and provides solutions to what they view as a holistic problem — not just give more money to police departments without checks on their power.
The aide told Supercreator that members were viewing the bills within the context of the eighth anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder on Tuesday and the biggest racial justice uprising in a generation two years ago and the George Floyd [Justice in] Policing Act or any narrower form of police reform haven’t passed.
“There’s research that shows that the communities that are the safest aren’t the ones with the most police. They’re the ones with the most resources,” the aide said. “Let’s invest in communities and invest in violence prevention and not just give funding to police departments without any sort of reform.”
As part of the negotiations, House Progressives put forward a suite of bills that could earn the support of all its members and would bring both sides together because not only were progressives and moderates being pitted against each other, but civil rights groups were upping the pressure on the Black Caucus to include stronger accountability language.
Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California proposed the Mental Health Justice Act, which would send unarmed trained mental health professionals to meet people in a mental health crisis. The bill is in response to statistics about the interaction that people with mental illness are much more likely to be killed during a police encounter and about a quarter of all people who are shot by the police have a mental illness of some kind.
“So we want to address public safety,” the aide said. “But let’s not do it in a way that has people with mental only met with more violence.”
Steven Horsford, a House Democrat from Nevada, put forward the Break the Cycle of Violence Act that’s about funding evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs. The goal of this bill is to make sure that communities have the resources that they need to stop violence on the front end.
And the Clean Slate Act, introduced by Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, would seal the records of people who have nonviolent drug offenses or people who were arrested but not convicted of a crime to make sure that people who have interacted with the criminal legal system are able to get jobs and move on with their lives.
The House will be in session this Friday to vote on the Inflation Reduction Act. But the Rules Committee, which sets the guidelines under which bills are voted on, met this afternoon for the IRA. The police funding package would have needed to be included in the IRA rule or passed as its own rule to be considered on Friday.
“This week, our focus must remain on passing the IRA, as conversations continue on finding consensus for a robust public safety package,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday afternoon in a letter to House Democrats.
Once the House votes on the IRA, they’ll break again for recess through the end of the month.
“It’s not about saying no,” the Democratic aide said. “It’s about [finding] a way to get to yes on the issue of public safety that doesn’t potentially expos people to danger and also that brings the caucus together so people from all parts can feel like they can get behind it.”
ZERO INFLATION IN JULY: Thanks to a $1-per-gallon drop in gas prices this summer, the US economy saw no rise in inflation last month. The relief at the pump offset increases in food, housing and other everyday expenses. July also saw declines in airfare, the price of used cars and trucks, and apparel.
Dr. William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and chief economist to the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the US, told Supercreator that the latest government data show that inflation is moderating, which obviously is welcome news to consumers.
But he added that rental costs are a problem and not one the Federal Reserve can easily address and food prices will continue to be volatile due to global warming.
The July data follows brutal numbers in June that saw yearly inflation increase to its highest since 1981 and has inspired a dash of cautious optimism within the Biden administration.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday declined to comment on if inflation has peaked and instead reiterated the administration’s focus on lowering costs and making sure the Fed has the independence to advance the strongest monetary policy to bring down inflation without plunging the economy into a recession.
Jean-Pierre said the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate, health care and tax bill that cleared the Senate last Sunday and will be voted on in the House on Friday, will also help, as President Biden often says, “give folks a little breathing room.”
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HOUSE DEM PROPOSES ANTI-SCAMMING BILL: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California introduced a new bill with Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas to close loopholes that scammers who trick Americans into making campaign donations to fraudulent political action committees use to avoid accountability. The legislation comes after the Federal Election Commission asked Congress to clarify the law so that the federal agency can effectively go after scammers.
BIDEN SIGNS PACT ACT: President Biden this morning signed the PACT Act, a bipartisan law that marks the most significant expansion of health care and benefits for veterans in more than 30 years.
“I was going to get this done come hell or high water,” he said before he signed the bill, which will specifically aid veterans exposed to toxins from burn during their military service.
Biden was introduced by Danielle and Brielle Robinson, the surviving wife and daughter of Heath Robinson, the late service member whom the law is named after. (Danielle was First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s guest at the State of the Union earlier this year when Biden first called on Congress to pass legislation; Brielle received the pen President Biden signed the bill with.)
In attendance at the bill signing were toxic-exposed veterans and their families, key advocates, representatives of veterans service organizations, administration officials, members of Congress and staff who have worked on this issue. Several attendees hugged comedian and veterans rights activist Jon Stewart before the event.
Eligible veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors can apply for PACT Act benefits by filing a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, visiting VA.gov/PACT, or calling 1-800-MyVA411.
BIDEN PLANS TO APPOINT FIRST WOMAN TO LEAD CANCER AGENCY: The president announced his intention to appoint Dr. Monica Bertagnolli as director of the National Cancer Institute. She would be the first woman to lead the agency responsible for a series of activities related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. According to the White House, Dr. Bertagnolli currently serves a professor of surgery in the field of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School as well as a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer and Sarcoma Disease Centers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, one of the top cancer hospitals in the world.
SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL MEETS WITH LGBTQ+ ADVOCACY GROUPS: Deputy Defense Secretary Dr. Kathleen Hicks on Wednesday met with seven advocacy groups to hear about the key issues affecting LGBTQ+ service members. Hicks also provided an update on the department’s efforts to foster inclusion and equity for those who wish to serve in the military.
Since Hicks’s first meeting with the groups last summer, the Defense Department has fully implemented policies providing for the service of individuals who identify as transgender and enhanced policies and procedures associated with gender transition for service members and more.
COVID OPTIMISM PLUMMETS: The percentage of Americans who believe the coronavirus situation in the US is getting worse has doubled since late April and early May, Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup reports. Most Americans also expect to see an increase in cases this fall and winter and don’t think the pandemic is over yet.
WORLD HUNGER WORSENED IN ‘21: World hunger and severe food insecurity grew last year, making the world's goal of achieving “zero hunger” by 2030 even more unlikely, Sara Viviani and Julie Ray at Gallup report. Current projections estimate that eight percent of the world's population will still be undernourished in 2030 — just as much as when these goals were first set in 2015.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden received his daily intelligence briefing and then signed the PACT Act into law. The president and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived this afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina for vacation.
Vice President Harris traveled to Las Vegas this morning to speak at the United Steelworkers Constitutional Convention before meeting with Nevada state legislators to discuss reproductive health care. This evening, she will travel to San Francisco.
The House and Senate are out. The House Rules Committee met this afternoon on the Inflation Reduction Act, which members will consider this Friday.
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