Democrats may be publicly distancing themselves from progressive calls to “defund the police,” but House Democrats’ “updated” coronavirus relief package, released Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to negotiate a multi-million-dollar deal with Republicans, does not include a planned $600 million in emergency funding for law enforcement — funding that would have been used to protect first responders from the novel coronavirus.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled the “stripped down” $2.2 trillion HEROES Act Wednesday morning, telling colleagues in a statement that the bill is designed to “avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others,” and that passing the bill is necessary “to protect lives, livelihoods, and the life of our democracy over the coming months.”
The bill is around $1 trillion cheaper than a previous draft, passed by the House in late May. Wednesday’s version is the result of ongoing negotiations between Democrats and the White House — specifically Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin — and Democrats hope their willingness to “come down a trillion dollars” inspires Senate Republicans, who offered a $1 trillion bill back in August, to “come up a trillion dollars,” per the Speaker.
Democrats made a host of cuts to the original HEROES Act, stripping out half of what it initially offered in coronavirus relief to cash-strapped states and cities, dramatically reducing aid to homeowners and renters, and dropping a planned full bailout of the United States Postal Service, handing the group, instead, just $15 billion. The new bill does not include a provision reinstating the SALT, a tax exemption beloved by high-income blue-staters.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) noted Wednesday, though, that the cuts include a $600 million in planned grants to law enforcement: “$300 million for Community Oriented Police Services Programs (COPS) that helps hire and rehire additional officers and $300 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to help law enforcement purchase personal protective equipment and to cover costs to control coronavirus in prisons,” per Fox News.
“House Democrats have fully embraced the radical left’s movement to defund the police,” Scalise told the network in a statement. “Democrats’ so-called ‘Heroes Act’ removes $600 million from a previous version of the bill that was intended for real heroes: state and local law enforcement.”
Scalise went on to point out that the decision to cut the $600 million expense from the bill comes amid a nationwide spike in violent crime.
“In the face of violent rioting and looting, our law enforcement officers need our help more than ever, but Speaker Pelosi and her liberal lieutenants are abandoning these officers in plain sight,” he added. “Instead, Democrats decided to work in direct stimulus payments to illegal immigrants and blanket releases for certain federal prisoners. Democrats have no respect for law and order in our communities. It’s shameful.”
Democrats pointed out that the bill doesn’t actually “defund” the police; law enforcement simply won’t receive the grant included in the first bill. Instead, they say, the strikeout reflects a reduced need for funding. Democrats also told Fox News that cities and states are allowed to redistribute their handouts as they see fit and that some of that $400 billion could go to outfitting first responders with personal protective equipment or funding COPS grants.
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