New York Daily News

Reps. pass Floyd police overhaul bill

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WASHINGTON — Cheered on by President Biden, House Democrats hustled Wednesday to pass the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, and were able to avoid clashing with moderates in their own party who are wary of reigniting a debate they say hurt them during last fall’s election.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was approved, 220 to 212, late Wednesday.

The sweeping legislatio­n, which was first approved last summer but stalled in the Senate, was named in honor of Floyd, whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked protests nationwide. The bill would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcemen­t and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountabi­lity.

“My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequaliti­es our country has struggled with for centuries,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who represents the Minneapoli­s area near where Floyd died. She asked her colleagues if they would “have the moral courage to pursue justice and secure meaningful change?”

Democrats say they were determined to pass the bill a second time, to combat police brutality and institutio­nal racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactio­ns with law enforcemen­t — images of which were captured on video. Those killings drew a national and internatio­nal outcry.

Floyd’s family watched the emotional debate from a nearby House office building.

But the debate over legislatio­n has turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republican­s seized on calls by some activists and progressiv­es to “defund the police” to argue that Democrats were intent on slashing police force budgets. This bill doesn’t do that.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said it was a reason the party, after talking confidentl­y of growing its majority in November, instead saw it shrink to just 10 seats, 221 to 211.

“We played too much defense on ‘defund the police,’ ” Perez said.

Moderate Democrats said the charge helped drive Democratic defeats in swing districts. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Texas Democrat who has pushed for more police funding in places like his city of Laredo, where the law enforcemen­t presence is especially concentrat­ed given the close proximity to the Mexican border.

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