Photo via Rep. Fred Upton.
Photo via Rep. Fred Upton.

One Michigan Republican crossed party lines to vote for the police reform bill, but said it wouldn’t and shouldn’t be law.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A package of police reforms passed the House of Representatives largely along partisan lines, but it faces a hard road in the Senate. 

Drafted by the Congressional Black Caucus, the slate of reforms include banning choke holds and ending the qualified immunity protection that prevents police officers from lawsuits for things like wrongful death. 

Those measures in particular are what make the bill unlikely to pass the Senate.

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Politico reports that those were among common sticking points with House Republicans, and the Senate bill, which focuses on financial incentives for training and body camera use over policy-based reforms, is a relatively minor change by comparison. 

Even should the House bill clear the Senate, President Trump has vowed to veto it

Behind the Votes 

Not all Republicans voted against the bill, however. Three joined Democrats. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) voted in favor of the House reforms. That support was measured, however. 

“The bill as it passed today will not become law, but we now have an opportunity to seek common ground,” Upton said. “I have talked with a number of law enforcement officials across my district and share their real concerns about the qualified immunity provision, which would truly hinder their ability to train and recruit good officers. This provision — as is — cannot and should not become law.”

Upton’s skepticism clashes with fellow Michigan conservative and opponent of the House bill Justin Amash (I-Cascade), who introduced his own legislation calling for an end to qualified immunity. 

Michigan’s Congressional delegation was split 8-6 almost along party lines, thanks to Upton siding with the Democrats and Amash siding with the Republicans. 

Reps. Upton, Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township), Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield), Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), and Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) voted in support of the bill.

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Reps. Amash, Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet), Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), John Moolenaar (R-Midland), Tim Walberg (R-Tipton), and Paul Mitchell (R-Thomas Township), opposed the bill.

The House bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, also bans no-knock warrants and creates a database of police abuses to make it harder for cops fired for misconduct to simply move to another jurisdiction — a common problem in addressing police misconduct.

One Success at a Time 

There is some common ground between the House and Senate policing reforms, with both bills calling for more use of body cameras, more training for officers, and making lynching a federal crime. 

Even should the broader reforms in the House bill not become law on a national level, they are also being pursued on a state level by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who announced Monday her own proposed reforms, which also include banning chokeholds and further limitation on no-knock warrants. 

“Thank God for the activists. Thank God for the screaming from the streets that has awoken a lot of people to how the severe disregard for life and racism has been playing out every day in America,” Rep. Lawrence told Politico. “We need transformational change.”

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The bill passed the House exactly one month after George Floyd was killed when a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, including a full minute after he became unresponsive. This ignited an outpouring of grief and frustration across the nation as protesters demanded change. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was aware of that timing.

“Exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and changed the course of history,” Pelosi told reporters before the vote. “When we pass this bill, the Senate will have a choice: to honor George Floyd’s life or to do nothing.”