Members of George Floyd’s family are in Washington Tuesday meeting with President Biden and top congressional leaders, one year to the day after his death at the hands of a white police officer rocked the country and sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.
Floyd’s relatives first traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is one of the leaders of the ongoing bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to reach a deal on police reform legislation.
“I stand here to renew the commitment that we will get this bill on President Biden’s desk,” Bass said in remarks to reporters after the meeting with Floyd’s family. “We will work until we get the job done. It will be passed in a bipartisan manner. And so that is a commitment that we are making, [that] I’m making personally for the family.”
After meeting with Pelosi and Bass, Floyd’s relatives traveled to the White House for a more than hour-long meeting with President Biden and Vice President Harris. Afterward, Floyd’s family members said the president is eager to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and urged Congress to pass the bill.
Earlier today in the Oval Office, I met with George Floyd’s family. They’ve shown extraordinary courage over the last year, especially his young daughter Gianna, who I met again today. The day before her father’s funeral, she told me, “Daddy changed the world.”
He has. pic.twitter.com/gGIKqVIEFk
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said Mr. Biden reiterated that they are “still doing everything to make sure that his legacy is respected.” Brandon Williams, George Floyd’s nephew, said that Mr. Biden is “not happy about the deadline not being met,” but reiterated that he’d rather have a comprehensive package than a rushed bill. The Floyd family did a “say his name” chant in front of the West Wing.
In a statement after meeting with members of Floyd’s family, Mr. Biden said that “we have to act” on police reform.
“The negotiations on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Congress are ongoing. I have strongly supported the legislation that passed the House, and I appreciate the good-faith efforts from Democrats and Republicans to pass a meaningful bill out of the Senate. It’s my hope they will get a bill to my desk quickly,” Mr. Biden said.
Members of the family then returned to Capitol Hill to meet with Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Tim Scott, who are the other leaders of police reform negotiations in Congress.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd down with a knee to his neck for roughly nine minutes, while Floyd repeatedly said that he couldn’t breathe. Video of Chauvin’s actions sparked nationwide outrage and months of demonstrations against systemic racism. Chauvin was convicted on all counts related to Floyd’s death last month, reviving efforts in Congress to pass comprehensive police reform legislation.
The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March, a comprehensive reform bill that would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases, create a National Police Misconduct Registry and encourage states to establish standards for investigating deaths involving police.
In his address to Congress last month, Mr. Biden urged lawmakers to reach a deal by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death. But they’re going to miss that deadline, and some ideological differences continue to hinder the Senate negotiations.
One issue still being debated is the House provision to overhaul qualified immunity, which could make it easier to bring lawsuits against individual law enforcement officers. Floyd family members went to the Capitol last month to voice their support of this bill. But Republicans oppose eliminating qualified immunity, arguing that it could result in frivolous lawsuits and unnecessary punishment for officers who are acting in good faith.
Bass, Booker and Scott said in a joint statement on Monday that they “continue to make progress toward a compromise and remain optimistic about the prospects of achieving that goal.”
Bass told CBS News that “everybody has been a little over-focused on qualified immunity because there’s a lot more to the bill than that.”
“We have not come to an agreement on qualified immunity — that’s an overstatement — but I do think that we are closer and are trying to look for various solutions,” Bass said.
But Booker said in an interview with CBS News on Tuesday that he would work to ensure that ending qualified immunity was in the final bill.
“Qualified immunity is something I strongly believe should not be there, and I actually fully believe that in the course of history, it will be gone. I’m trying to make that moment now, and I’m fighting to make sure that’s a part of this bill,” Booker said.
Negotiators are facing pressure from the left as well as the right to craft a deal that is acceptable to all. House progressives insisted that ending qualified immunity for law enforcement officers must be part of any final police reform package in a letter to House and Senate leadership last week.
“Given that police violence, as a weapon of structural racism, continues to have devastating and deadly consequences for Black and brown lives across our country, we strongly urge you to not only maintain but strengthen the provision eliminating qualified immunity as negotiations in the Senate continue,” the lawmakers wrote.
Lawmakers have also sparred over changing Section 242 of the U.S. Code to require a jury to decide whether a law enforcement officer acted with reckless disregard in order to convict, rather than the current standard of “willfulness.”
Despite the continued deadlock in negotiations, Booker said that he believed there was momentum to reach a deal.
“This bill that we are working on right now would not have been possible, I think, before George Floyd. His death, tragic and in pain, we all must make sure that it wasn’t in vain and that something substantive comes out of it,” Booker said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Mr. Biden is “still very hopeful” that the bill will reach his desk so he can sign it. “We are very closely engaged with negotiators while also leaving [the Senate] room to work,” she said.
Nikole Killion and Kathryn Watson contributed reporting.
This story was originally published by CBS News on May 25 at 10:17 a.m. ET
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