On Wednesday, June 24, Senate Democrats blocked the JUSTICE Act, with only three Democrats voting for the bill. The final vote was 55 to 45. The JUSTICE Act legislation authored by Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African American Republican in the Senate, would increase law enforcement accountability, improve training, promote diversity, and penalize police departments that did not ban chokeholds.
.@SenatorTimScott: "We'll move on. People will forget about it. And you know what's going to happen? Something bad. And we'll be right back here talking about what should have been done…We could do something right now."
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 24, 2020
The bill also contained several other provisions that have broad, bipartisan support, such as making the act of lynching a federal crime. This was an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to begin discussing a proposal that would reform practices in police departments and strive to decrease racial injustice.
The fact that Congress has failed once again to do its job is nothing less than a disappointment to all Americans. We have repeatedly seen that when leaders like Senator Tim Scott attempt to reach across the aisle to try and achieve bipartisan agreement, it often becomes an uphill battle, and progressives almost always say it’s not enough.
This is toxic to our society, and it reinforces the idea that Americans live in different worlds, making it difficult to find unity. Furthermore, why would people feel motivated to reach out and offer concessions across the aisle if they are only going to ask for more demands?
Senator Scott was clear that his colleagues offered Senate Democrats at least 20 opportunities to add amendments to the bill. In theory, this would have provided a pathway for both sides to work cooperatively toward legislation that both parties would agree upon. However, Senate Democrats simply chose to end the discussion on the bill because it didn’t meet all of their political priorities. Scott said on Twitter that Senator Chuck Schumer’s strategy was “not about debates or amendments, but partisan politics,” because it wasn’t about what was being offered, but who was offering it.
I’m frustrated that Democrats put politics ahead of our country. Real police reform is needed, but they didn’t even want to give it a shot. Americans must know that we hear them, and we must do the right thing. #JUSTICEAct #TwoWithTim pic.twitter.com/agxGeZjxgF
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) June 25, 2020
Data across the country shows that the American public has a serious level of distrust in Congress. According to a recent survey, the approval of Congress among Americans is at a record low, with only 25% of Americans approving of the job that Congress is doing. When both parties cannot work together and play political games to achieve their priorities, it further erodes the faith American people have in their representatives.
Data shows that most Americans want to see police reform, including a majority of Republicans. This is why it is frustrating that Senate Democrats were unwilling to work with their Republican colleagues when they were given multiple opportunities to do so.
The Founding Fathers created the United States Senate as the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” and deliberately designed the 60-vote threshold so both political parties could work together instead of being at one another’s throats.
It is also only a matter of time before one of the parties abolishes the filibuster in the Senate, allowing legislation to be passed with only a simple majority of 51 votes or more and increasing the likelihood of single-party rule. George Washington warned Americans in his Farewell Address that partisanship would “bring ruin to public liberty.”
Democrats and Republicans would be wise to heed the words of our nation’s first president and work together to provide solutions for the American people, instead of doubling down on partisan political priorities, especially on something as important as police reform.