House passes package of bills to address policing, crime issues

2022-09-22 | Roll Call

The House passed four bills Thursday authorizing grants for law enforcement hiring, training and mental health first responders after a close vote on a procedural hurdle that showed a division among Democrats on some policing and crime issues.

The measures would authorize grant programs for increased hiring in police departments with fewer than 200 officers, for local community violence interrupters, for increased technology in investigating violent crime and for grant programs funding mental health first responders.

Democrats pitched the bills as their effort to address rising crime nationwide while still supporting changes to policing policy, a balance the party has pursued for more than two years.

New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, argued in a floor speech that the bills would support more robust policing at the local level while addressing problems like police officers responding to mental health crises.

“Democrats also know that public safety and respect for civil rights can coexist,” Nadler said. “Building healthy and strong communities does not require us to choose between our rights and our safety.”

All told, the bills would involve nearly $2 billion in grant programs across the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Labor through 2029, if appropriators decide to fund them.

However, legislation on policing has faced stiff opposition in the evenly divided Senate, which is unlikely to take up any of the House-passed measures.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and other Republicans broadly painted the bills as political messaging ahead of midterm elections in which rising crime could drag down Democrats. Since Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd in 2020 on a video that sparked protests nationwide, Jordan argued that Democrats backed efforts that undermined policing.

“It should also be no surprise that Democrats are now trying to run and hide from their radical ideas and dangerous rhetoric” on policing, Jordan said in a floor speech.

Rule vote

Thursday’s votes came after months of internal wrangling among Democrats, which nearly sunk the whole vote series. Four Democrats, including Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., voted against a rule that would allow the House to consider the bills on the floor.

Bush said in a statement Thursday that she opposed one proposal because it “would add nearly a quarter billion dollars in police funding over the next five years without addressing the crisis of police brutality.”

Another progressive Democrat, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, voted present, and the rule passed on a 216-215-1 vote, which allowed debate to begin.

That bill received support from more than 150 Republicans for a 360-64 final vote, with nine Democrats voting against it. The bill would authorize $50 million annually for police departments with fewer than 200 officers to hire and train additional police.

The other three measures received somewhat lower bipartisan support, with no Democrats voting against them.

The House voted 223-206 to pass a bill that would provide authorization for $250 million in grants through the Department of Health and Human Services through 2027 for mental health professionals to act as first responders.

The House voted 220-207 to pass a bill that would authorize more than $1.5 billion in grants through 2029 for violence interrupter programs and other community oriented efforts to respond to or prevent violent crime.

And the House voted 250-178 to pass a bill that would authorize $100 million in grants through the DOJ annually through 2033 to increase acquisition of technology and hiring or training local police detectives to solve violent crimes such as homicide, rape and assault.

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