Nine House Democrats voted against a bill on Thursday that calls for providing federal grants to small law enforcement agencies, bucking the party on the highly anticipated vote.
The House approved the bill, titled the Invest to Protect Act, in a 360-64 vote. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) sponsored the measure.
All nine Democrats who voted against the bill are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Andy Levin (Ill.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.).
A total of 153 Republicans supported the bill, while 55 voted “no.” House Republican leadership did not whip against any of the four policing and public safety measured brought to the floor on Thursday.
The measure seeks to award federal grants to law enforcement agencies with fewer than 125 officers, which could go towards purchasing body cameras, offering de-escalation training and bolstering recruitment and retention, among other uses.
Bush, a freshman lawmaker, signaled her opposition to the Gottheimer bill Thursday morning: Her spokesperson released a statement outlining the congresswoman’s concerns over a lack of “accountability measures” in the legislation.
That opposition, along with concerns from other members of the progressive “Squad,” put passage of the bill and other policing and public safety measures in jeopardy and delayed debate by roughly three hours. Bush, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Bowman voted against the rule to begin debate on the package of law enforcement bills, and Pressley voted “present.”
After the procedural vote, Bush voiced concerns about a lack of accountability measures in the Gottheimer bill, arguing that the legislation is full of “unchecked, unmonitored money.”
“Where is police accountability? You know, when does that happen? When does that come into play? When does that prioritize?” she asked reporters in the Capitol.
Asked what accountability measures she was hoping to see, Bush said “basic provisions” from the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — which passed the House last year but has since languished in the Senate — could have been included.
Ocasio-Cortez, also a member of the progressive “Squad,” took issue with the fact-track process by which the Gottheimer bill was brought to the floor for a vote. The measure did not make its way through committee, as is customary for regular order.
“I have not heard an explanation as to why those two bills aren’t being properly introduced to the floor on their own merits. And why must they be packaged with a piece of legislation whose final version no one saw before yesterday, who did not get introduced to committee, did not get debated, why we are doing this?” she asked reporters.
“And why are some people allowed to completely subvert our democratic processes internally, and why some of us sort of are held to higher standards than others?” she added.
The House on Thursday also passed three other measures addressing policing and community safety. All voting Democrats supported those measures.
Some Republicans, however, voted against the party on those bills.
Three Republicans voted for the Mental Health Justice Act — sponsored by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) — which seeks to provide funds that would go towards training and assigning mental health professionals to help with situations involving individuals who have special behavior needs, rather than deploying a law enforcement official to respond.
GOP Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) and Michelle Steel (Calif.) supported the bill.
Fitzpatrick was the only Republican to vote for the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, sponsored by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), which seeks to allocate grants for coordinated community violence projects in locations that have a disproportionate number of homicides and community violence.
The fourth bill, titled the VICTIM Act and sponsored by Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), passed with widespread bipartisan support: All Democrats present and 30 Republicans voted “yes.” The measure would direct the Justice Department to establish a grant program to bolster local investigators’ use of technology to crack cold cases, especially those involving gun violence.