House Democrats passed a controversial police reform bill late on Wednesday evening that critics argue would effectively “defund the police” by costing police departments across the country hundreds of millions of dollars that they say will force those departments to make cuts to their budgets.
There was bipartisan support against the bill and only partisan Democrat support for it. The vote was initially passed with 219 Democrat votes and 1 Republican vote with 210 Republicans opposing it and 2 Democrats opposing it. However, the lone Republican that voted for it, Rep. Lance Gooden (TX), announced that he accidentally voted for the bill and that he changed his official record to vote against the bill.
“Democrats just voted to defund the police,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a statement. “The unfunded mandates in their bill, H.R. 1280, would cost police departments hundreds of millions of dollars—the equivalent of taking 3,000 cops or more off the streets. Our men and women in uniform deserve better.”
Jason Smith (R-MO), Ranking Member on the Budget Committee, and Jim Jordan (R-OH), Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Congressional Budget Office Director Phillip Swagel highlighting their concerns with the bill.
“It is our understanding that H.R. 1280 contains provisions that significantly violate the current Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) threshold of $85 million,” the letter stated. “It is further our understanding that these provisions may in fact result in additional costs to state, local, and tribal governments totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars which would deprive these localities of the resources needed to provide adequate policing and public safety services in their communities.”
“We respectfully ask that CBO provide a detailed estimate of the total cost that the mandates included in H.R. 1280 would impose on state, local, and tribal governments if it were enacted into law,” the letter concluded.
Jordan’s office said that the bill was developed without any Republican input and that Democrats rejected the following common-sense proposals that Republicans wanted to add:
- strengthen the anti-lynching provision;
- ensure our Border Patrol has the necessary equipment to fight dangerous cartels;
- prevent unions from shielding bad cops in collective bargaining agreements; and
- require that federal law enforcement agencies record interviews.
Jordan’s office said that the bill does nothing to stop attempts to defund and dismantle police departments and that it will limit the tools and procedures that law enforcement is able to use while combatting crime on America’s streets.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) offered Democrats a way out late on Wednesday night — a chance to vote on an amendment that “recognizes and appreciates” those who serve in law enforcement and “condemns calls to ‘defund,’ ‘disband,’ ‘dismantle,’ or ‘abolish’ the police.”
219 Democrats voted against the amendment, which stopped it from being added.
.@RepMalliotakis offered a motion to recommit, that the House:
• recognizes & appreciates the dedication & devotion demonstrated by the men and women of law enforcement
• condemns calls to "defund," "disband," "dismantle" or "abolish" the police.
219 Dems voted against it. pic.twitter.com/690ePGBTgo
— Mark Bednar (@MarkBednar) March 4, 2021
“The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling,” Axios reported. “It would also establish a national registry of police misconduct to be managed by the Department of Justice.”
“The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will address systemic racism, curb police brutality and save lives,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “This legislation includes bold reforms, which ban chokeholds, stop no-knock warrants, end the court-created qualified immunity doctrine, combat racial profiling, and establish strong new standards and protections to prevent and combat police misconduct.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.