Law Enforcement Funding Package Splits Democrats Ahead of Midterm Elections

WASHINGTON – Legislation to increase funding for local police departments has struggled on Capitol Hill amid deep divisions among Democrats, as progressives find it difficult to get more money for law enforcement and call-to-action regulation could blunt Republicans’ efforts to brand them as soft on crime ahead of the midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged for weeks to deliver a package of bills providing funding to hire more police, raise wages, invest in officer training and safety and body cameras, as well as resources. mental health resources for officers.

But the measures, backed by vulnerable Democrats from conservative counties, have become mired in a years-long internal feud over criminal politics, leaving the party unable to answers to attacks by Republicans and some members of this party.

Representative Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, said: “I’ve heard a lot of reasons people want to excuse inaction, and being the lead, said the bill’s proponent. “The kind of generic excuse – I’ve heard it a lot. Tomorrow will be, “It’s raining.”

Members of the Black Caucus of Congress, who have successfully pushed for a package that includes measures to increase accountability for police misconduct, have also pushed for it.

A spokesman for the caucus said the matter remained a priority for the group.

However, a small group of progressives have so far refused to support the legislation, leaving Democrats short of the votes they need to deliver. House Democratic leaders are reluctant to express divisions within their party at a time when the political map is more favorable to them than it was a few months ago. So Ms. Pelosi declined to announce any votes, as lawmakers continued to discuss with those withholding their support.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat of Washington and chair of the Progressive caucus of Congress, has positioned herself as the main roadblock to the legislation, arguing that it would provide a blank check for police departments.

“The answer is not just putting in more money,” Ms. Jayapal said. “I’m not sure this has a chance going forward, with all the challenges surrounding it.”

Given the Democrats have a majority in the House, the objections of Ms Jayapal and just three other liberals will be enough to prevent it from moving to a vote. According to a person familiar with the negotiations, talks between her, moderate Democrats and party leaders continued on Monday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, with Some are still hoping for a potential breakthrough.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat and majority leader, pushed for a vote on the measure this week, the person said.

Still, time is running out for Democrats to act ahead of the midterm elections, in which Republicans once again make crime a prime attack point. With the law no longer in effect, vulnerable Democrats are losing the ability to gain political leverage from the passage of a pro-police bill. There is little time left before November to campaign for such a vote or create an ad trying to get credit.

For years, Republicans have tried to portray Democrats as soft on crime and inclined to take down the police – a mantra many progressives accept amid a string of violent incidents. well-known force of law enforcement, especially against people of color.

Criticism of the Republican Party has become acute during the election period, including in recent weeks, as gas prices have fallen and the party has sought other ways to tarnish the Democrats in the eyes of politicians. suburban voters, such as highlighting the dysfunctional immigration system and persistent inflation. .

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Before the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald J. Trump marked Democrats as “”party of crime“Although crime rates have increased in cities with leaders of both political parties. Since 2019, homicides have increased by nearly 40%, and violent crime, including shootings and other assaults, has increased overall.

The current show is the latest chapter in the long-running battle over the issue between Democrats. After the party’s disappointing results in the 2020 midterm elections, as a Democrat internal controversy about what went wrongMs. Spanberger has expressed her frustration privately about progressive colleagues who have accepted “Defeat the police” argues that Democrats must push back harder at Republican attempts to portray them as anti-law enforcement.

At the time, progressives including Ms. Jayapal angrily dismissed the criticism, saying they had helped knock down the party’s liberal base by talking about issues that core supporters had. activist core, including people of color, allowing Democrats to hold a majority in the House.

Those pressing for the passage of the law this year argue that it goes beyond politics and will make communities safer by helping police departments focus on community-driven approaches. And they tried to address widespread concerns among Democrats about the inclusion of meaningful police accountability measures.

Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, introduced the Investment to Protect Act, which would direct the Justice Department to award grants to local or tribal governments with fewer 200 law enforcement officers to improve recruitment, purchase body cameras and provide de-escalation training.

“We have to make it clear to the country that we are a tough party to crime and support protecting our communities and those who do,” Mr. Gottheimer said.

Hoyer said in a recent letter to Democrats that the House would be “ready to consider” the legislation this month.

“The Democrats are not about bringing down the police,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters. “We voted for it in the final budget, the previous budget, and every budget since I’ve been here to make sure that law enforcement has the resources it needs.”

Civil rights groups including the NAACP are also pushing for the law to be passed, arguing that additional police funding must be combined with accountability measures.

“A lot of evidence supports the fact that some preventive measures, such as violence prevention programs and other community investments, can significantly improve safety outcomes,” the organization said. wrote in a letter to Democratic leaders last month.

But with the legislative calendar shrinking, many people pressing for action say they remain skeptical that there will be any real effort moving forward.

“I keep hearing from the leadership,” said Ms. Spanberger, “We really want to bring these bills. “And not yet.”

Democrats had originally hoped to vote on police funding bills over the summer and are planning to combine them with Offensive Weapons Law passed in July, before lawmakers left Washington for a break in August. But as disagreements surfaced over accountability measures in police bills, Ms. Pelosi chose to go ahead only by assault weapons ban and law enforcement review in the fall.

Now the House is back, but the issue of police funding remains unresolved.

Representative Yvette D. Clarke, a Democrat of New York, said she recognizes the need for more police funding, but remains concerned that the measures lack adequate accountability measures against with law enforcement, which she describes as “a tacit acceptance of abusive practices.”

“It’s important that we have people in place to make sure our cities are safe,” Ms. Clarke said. “We also need to make sure that there is proper training in place, so that communities of color feel like they are cooperating with their police departments.”

Jonathan Martin contribution report.

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