Cotton and Schumer clash over police reform

Marianne LeVine

Sen. Tom Cotton and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sparred on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, after the Arkansas Republican offered a resolution opposing efforts to defund the police.

The Arkansas Republican’s resolution calls for “justice for George Floyd,” whose death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked two weeks of nationwide protests, while also stating that “defunding the police would leave police departments understaffed and undertrained.” Schumer objected to the resolution, prompting Cotton to suggest that Democrats support defunding the police.

“Defund the police” has become a rallying cry among activists protesting police brutality, but Democratic lawmakers largely don’t support the effort. President Donald Trump and Republicans have attempted to use the mantra to paint Democrats as anti-police.

“We heard from the senator from New York and not a word of the resolution itself,” Cotton (R-Ark.) said. “What we’re seeing here is the Democratic leader apparently objecting on behalf of the Democratic party in defense of the radical idea that we should defund the police.”

Schumer, however, said Cotton’s resolution amounted to nothing more than rhetoric.

“The great worry so many Americans have is that so many on the other side will feel rhetoric and then try to let this go away,” Schumer said. “We demand action, and we demand it now. Real action, not rhetoric.”

Schumer offered his own resolution, which Cotton objected to, that would require the Senate to immediately take up a House police reform bill once it passes. Schumer has also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Democratic proposal to the floor.

“I am mystified by what happened here,” Cotton said. “ “Is the bill he wants to make impending business in the Senate even written in the House of Representatives?”

Democrats unveiled a sweeping reform bill this week, which would ban chokeholds and make it easier to sue police officers for unjust injuries and killings. The bill would also create a National Police Misconduct registry and limit the transfer of military equipment to police departments. The bill does not call for defunding the police.

Senate Republicans, led by Sen Tim Scott (R-S.C.), are preparing their own proposal that’s expected to focus on federal data collection on the use of force, training for police and banning no-knock warrants in drug cases. The White House is also reportedly in the process of drafting a police reform executive order.