The Washington Post

After months of debate, Democrats in House strike a deal to fund police

- BY MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR AND LEIGH ANN CALDWELL

House Democrats reached an agreement Wednesday to vote on a series of bills that provide millions of dollars to local law enforcemen­t and also include accountabi­lity measures.

The deal is a result of months of back and forth between centrist Democrats and the left flank of the caucus. Some Democrats had urged passage of the package ahead of the midterm elections as a counter to GOP attacks that paint Democrats as anti-police. Moderate and vulnerable swingdistr­ict Democrats have argued that “defund the police” language led to the party losing a surprising number of House seats in the 2020 election.

Those involved with the negotiatio­ns gave credit to the Congressio­nal Black Caucus, particular­ly Chairwoman Joyce Beatty (D- Ohio) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), for moderating negotiatio­ns between centrist and liberal lawmakers over the summer. Liberals joined CBC members in initially objecting to a vote for any police funding bill that did not include accountabi­lity provisions when leaders tried to pass the package over the summer.

“There is no perfect bill and there is no perfect answer,” Beatty said of the compromise. “All of my members will not necessaril­y be celebratin­g or honoring it, but we will continue to work.”

Leadership had intended to pass a more robust public safety package in July, tying it to legislatio­n that would ban assault weapons. But members of the Black and Progressiv­e caucuses balked, arguing that any police funding bill should also have language that addresses police accountabi­lity.

Beatty, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N. J.), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA.) and leaders ultimately reached a deal to add specific details into the moderates’ proposals, but Progressiv­e Caucus members and civil rights groups successful­ly lobbied to separate the assault weapons ban from the public safety package.

That episode became the most recent headache for Democratic leaders as they try to appease factions within their caucus who represent disparate groups of voters. It has remained a struggle that has at times defined the caucus this term as members work to overcome difference­s at the last minute in an effort to salvage legislativ­e priorities.

House Democrats left for their August recess with the promise that they would return to pass the public safety priorities, adding another win into their messaging arsenal ahead of November.

But according to multiple members and aides who support funding the police, members were in no rush to pass the package for fear that doing so would expose deep divisions within the caucus at a time when Democrats were finally seeing some voter enthusiasm return after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade during the summer.

Party leaders, the Congressio­nal Black Caucus chair, and moderate and liberal lawmakers, including CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-wash.) and Ilhan Omar (D-minn.), reached a deal Wednesday hours after beginning final negotiatio­ns with the goal of voting before the House adjourns next week to campaign ahead of the midterms.

The groups were able to strike a deal with Gottheimer to fund police department­s with 125 officers or fewer and direct some money to officer training, community safety and police accountabi­lity. The money may not be used to make new hires but can be used for signing bonuses as well as mental health efforts.

“It’s critical for policing that we have the backs of law enforcemen­t, because every day they have ours,” Gottheimer said.

Democrats will also vote on legislatio­n proposed by Reps. Katie Porter (D- Calif.), Steven Horsford (D-nev.) and Val Demings (D-fla.) that prioritize­s sending unarmed first responders into situations involving people experienci­ng a mental health crisis; provides federal grants for communitie­s practicing violence interventi­on and prevention; and offers assistance to law enforcemen­t in solving gun crimes and supporting shooting victims.

However, even if the House passes the legislatio­n along party lines, it is not a priority for an evenly split Senate. It is unlikely 10 Republican­s would join Democrats to overcome the Senate filibuster.

To be sure, it was difficult for House Democrats to reach this moment. Negotiator­s decided to pull a bipartisan bill proposed by Spanberger and Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) from the package since an agreement was not reached on police accountabi­lity after the lawmakers had proposed doubling funding for a Justice Department grant given to local police stations. Spanberger said accountabi­lity measures were difficult to include in her proposal because it is a long-standing program and not a new one that can more easily be molded, like the Gottheimer bill for small police department­s.

Another proposal by Rep. Dean Phillips (D-minn.) that would give the Justice Department $50 million for marketing campaigns to help recruit police officers nationwide also was removed.

Leadership intends to hold a vote on the public safety package Thursday, but Democratic factions acknowledg­ed Wednesday it will still be a tough vote for many who believe more needs to be done either on accountabi­lity or helping law enforcemen­t.

“I can’t guarantee that the whole caucus will [support it],” Jayapal said.

With the impasse largely resolved, Democrats are poised to pass the bills ahead of their October recess, a win for moderates seeking to counter the narrative that their party is against law enforcemen­t. But many Black and liberal lawmakers are still hoping that future Congresses can push more accountabi­lity measures.

“Yes, it’s a midyear election. But more importantl­y than that, we need accountabi­lities and we need to do this to keep our communitie­s safer,” Beatty said. “Remember, people over politics.”

“It’s critical for policing that we have the backs of law enforcemen­t, because every day they have ours.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), on the compromise funding package

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