Feb 2, 2023
Black Caucus to Press Biden on Police Reform After Nichols Death
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he hoped the death of Tyre Nichols “spurs some action” as he sought to reassure allies in the Congressional Black Caucus of a commitment to work with them to advance police reform.
“We’ve got to stay at it as long as it takes,” Biden said on Thursday at the White House, where he and Vice President Kamala Harris met with members from the influential group.
Biden and Harris were joined by Representative Steven Horsford, the chairman of the Black Caucus, along with Senators Cory Booker and Raphael Warnock, and Representatives James Clyburn, Sheila Jackson Lee and Joe Neguse.
“Tyre Nichols is yet another example of why we do need action,” Horsford told the president. “We need your help to make sure we can get the legislative actions that are necessary to save lives and to make public safety the priority that it needs to be for all communities.”
Ahead of the the meeting, a person familiar with the group’s plans, said the Black Caucus would urge Biden to consider new executive actions and legislative avenues to advance police reform. The lawmakers also planned to ask the president to do more to elevate the discussion on police reform by raising it in his State of the Union address next Tuesday, and to highlight victims of police brutality, including Nichols.
Horsford told reporters as the lawmakers left the White House that the caucus had covered a number of important issues with Biden.
“We are committed to meaningful, substantive reforms and a focus on public safety,” he said. “This is going to require all of us, including Republicans.”
Nichols died after he was brutally beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee. His death sparked protests in cities across the US and has rekindled the debate over policing and calls for action in Washington. The parents of Nichols will be at the State of the Union, after accepting an invitation from Horsford.
Police reform is a legislative priority for Black voters, whom Biden has credited with helping him win the White House.
“I hope so,” the president said earlier Thursday when asked by a reporter if police reform is possible in this Congress.
The president has called on lawmakers to again take up the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which stalled in the last Congress, but the prospects for legislative action this year are slim with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives.
CBC members are not pressing Biden to pass the Floyd Act, according to the person familiar with the matter, as members understand the obstacles to passing such a comprehensive set of police reforms through a divided Congress.
Biden signed an executive order in May 2022 directing federal law enforcement agencies to end the use of no-knock warrants and revise use-of-force standards, but those actions did not extend to state and local level.
Biden said Thursday he hoped to discuss the changes his executive order would bring about. Yet the president has also expressed frustration and said he cannot do more on the issue in the absence of legislative action.
In the Democratic-controlled Senate, lawmakers from both parties have opened the door to talks on policing.
Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican and potential 2024 contender, on Twitter said the Floyd Act was a “non-starter,” but expressed optimism about passing bipartisan legislation.
“I’ve been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing,” Scott wrote.
--With assistance from Jordan Fabian.
(Updates with additional Horsford comments, starting in sixth paragraph.)
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