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White House: Police reform measures 'long overdue'

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President Joe Biden is "eager" to get a police reform bill on his desk, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said what legislation is passed and when is the responsibility of Congress. (April 21)

Video Transcript

- Under current law, it's a high bar for convicting officers of federal civil rights crimes. Does the president think it's time to revisit this aspect of the law?

JEN PSAKI: Mm-hm. Well, first, as the president alluded to last night in his remarks after the verdict was announced, he believes the bar for convicting officers is far too high. It needs to be changed. He's a strong supporter, as he also conveyed passionately last night, of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which does change the intent standard. Obviously there is negotiations that need to happen on Capitol Hill, but he believes the bar is too high.

The president doesn't believe that he alone can pull the George Floyd Act, Policing Act, across the finish line. That is going to be up to Congress. And right now, there are negotiations that are happening. There are leaders on both sides that are having those discussions. The president obviously advocated, as you alluded to, last night in remarks he delivered after the verdict.

And we also have been advocating, our senior leadership, has been advocating for this on the Hill, including in direct conversations with members who are in close touch with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Leadership, who are working towards this goal. This encompasses many offices in the White House, including-- of course, the president talked about this quite a bit during his meeting with the CBC last week-- but also our Legislative Affairs team, our Public Engagement team, the Domestic Policy Council and their leaders are deeply engaged, and we're also in regular contact with the nation's civil rights leaders, who are also advocating for this. But I will also say that there are times-- and this is true in diplomacy but also true in legislating-- that we need the best strategy is to provide the space for those conversations to happen privately. And that's our part of our objective.

- But in order to get the George Floyd bill passed, you need 60 votes. So I guess the question is, why should people have faith that the president will be able to get 60 votes to get the George Floyd bill passed?

JEN PSAKI: The president alone cannot pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act into law.

- How does he see his role in getting the George Floyd bill passed?

JEN PSAKI: Well his role is to work with leaders in Congress, as he did, as he has, being in touch with leaders in Congress in the Senate and House. Also, having a discussion with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom are playing important and prominent roles in getting this legislation across the finish line. He's also asked members of his senior team, whether it's the legislative team, the Domestic Policy Council, his Office of Public Engagement, to work with outside organizations, civil rights leaders, and others to work together to put pressure on Congress to move forward. He used the opportunity last night to deliver remarks. And I will say, as he's thinking about what his joint session speech looks like next week, he has every intention of using that as an opportunity to elevate this issue and talk about the importance of putting police reform measures in place.