U.S. Senate Republicans launch police reform bill to rival Democrats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans unveiled a new police reform bill on Wednesday as a rival to more sweeping Democratic legislation, as Congress struggled to address racial disparities in law enforcement three weeks after the death of George Floyd.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is flanked by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) as he speaks about his new police reform bill unveiled by Senate Republicans during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The Republican-led Senate will turn to the bill next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a news conference, as Democrats in the House of Representatives prepared to advance their own legislation to a floor vote expected by July 4.

Senator Tim Scott, the chamber’s only black Republican, who crafted the bill, said the legislation would create greater safety for both suspects and police. “We hear you. We’re listening to your concerns,” he told the news conference.

Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, was the latest in a string of killings of African Americans by U.S. police and it sparked widespread protests and fresh calls for reforms.

The Republican and Democratic bills address similar issues. Both make lynching a federal hate crime, encourage the use of body cameras and seek better training standards for police.

But it is not clear that Congress will agree on how to act.

Democrats claim the Republican plan does not go far enough, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Democratic legislation would go nowhere in his chamber, dismissing it as “typical Democratic overreach.”

Unlike the Democratic legislation, the Republican bill would not allow victims of misconduct to sue police, ban police chokeholds outright or create new rules to restrict the use of lethal force.

Instead, Republicans rely on the use of federal grant money to encourage police departments to adopt reforms.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an order that would steer federal money to police departments that agree to outside review and limit chokeholds.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis

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