The Mercury News Weekend
After Nichols funeral, Biden feels pressure on policing
When Vice President Kamala Harris was called to the pulpit at the funeral for Tyre Nichols, she said the White House would settle for nothing less than ambitious federal legislation to crack down on police brutality.
“We should not delay. And we will not be denied,” Harris said to applause in Memphis, Tennessee. “It is non-negotiable.”
Back in Washington, however, progress appears difficult, if not unlikely. Bipartisan efforts to reach an agreement on policing legislation stalled more than a year ago and President Joe Biden ended up instead signing an executive order named for George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis police set off nationwide protests nearly three years ago.
Now, with a new killing in the headlines, Biden and Harris met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday to explore whether it's possible to get legislation back on track.
“I am working to make sure that we have a clear plan,” said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., who chairs the caucus.
The members of Congress attending the White House meeting with Horsford are Sens. Raphael Warnock and Cory Booker — two of the three Black senators — and Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Jim Clyburn and Joe Neguse. Horsford remained mum on the agenda they were presenting to Biden, only saying that it was long past time to have a “genuine” conversation about policing in America. The White House is facing fresh pressure to advance the issue, and even some political allies are frustrated with what they view as excess caution from Biden.
“I think the president is missing the opportunity to be a historic president when it comes to the social issues that continue to plague our country,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. “That's what we need.”
Bowman described Biden as “a champion of the status quo in many ways,” and he said Biden needs to be “a champion of a new vision for America.”
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was in touch with the White House Jan. 27 when video of Nichols' beating became public, about whether the situation could be a catalyst to “get things moving again.”
His organization, the nation's largest police union, had participated in previous attempts to reach a bipartisan deal and Pasco said “we welcome any constructive effort to help us do our jobs better.”
Union President Patrick Yoes has condemned Nichols' killing and said that “our entire country needs to see justice done; swiftly and surely.”
However, Pasco said, “we're kind of in a waitand-see mode right now,” with Republicans recently regaining control of the House, making legislative progress much harder.