Durbin Calls On Senator McConnell To Allow For Bipartisan Negotiations On Police Reform Legislation

In Speech On Senate Floor, Durbin Announces He's Prepared To Vote Against The Motion To Proceed To The Republican Police Reform Bill

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow real debate on policing reform in order to find common ground and warned against a potential partisan vote on the floor of the Senate.  Durbin joined his colleagues, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA), in calling on Senator McConnell to refer the police reform bills to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Senators can have a fulsome debate, offer amendments, and come to a bipartisan solution.  Durbin also announced that he is prepared to vote against the motion to proceed to the Republican police reform bill, the JUSTICE Act, tomorrow.

“I am going to vote against this motion to proceed tomorrow.  I believe, as they do [Senators Harris and Booker], that we, as a Senate, can do better.  We can do better in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which throughout generations has been the place to go.  The forum to visit, the last stop, if you will, on the most important issues of our day,” Durbin said.  “… Senator McConnell’s tactic is so empty and so obvious…  Instead of saying to us, start in the Senate Judiciary Committee, find a bipartisan measure to bring to the floor and then let’s work together to have meaningful amendments, and then to have it, in fact, enacted.  But instead, take our bill or leave it.  If you don’t want to vote on the Republican bill on this subject, go home and defend your vote.  Well I’m prepared to and I think my colleagues are too.” 

In his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin also noted yesterday’s statement from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) urging Senators to vote against the Republican police reform bill.

Durbin concluded, “I feel blessed to be here in the United States Senate at this moment in history.  I feel fortunate to have a chance, with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to change the history of this country in the right direction.  My goodness, it is so long overdue after all of these 400 years of slavery, when it first came to our shore and the greed and racism that fed it as that insidious original sin of our country.  Now is our chance to do something in our generation to make a difference for those future generations who march in the street and look to us for real change.”

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Durbin is a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a comprehensive approach to hold police accountable for misconduct, change the culture of law enforcement, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities.  Last week, Republican Senators introduced their own police reform legislation.

Among other initiatives, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020:

  • Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing.
  • Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.

A fact sheet on the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is available here.

When Durbin chaired the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, he held several hearings on race in America, including his last hearing as Chairman in December 2014 on the State of Civil and Human Rights in the United States.