Carper Votes Against Insufficient Republican Policing Proposal

Carper: “[This proposal] is modest at best at a time when we need to be bold.”

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) released the following statement after voting against the narrow and inadequate bill put forth by Senate Republicans to change policing practices. Senator Carper, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), urged his colleagues to take up simple, common-sense reforms – reforms that are included in the Justice in Policing Act which he cosponsored – that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support across the country and would bring about lasting, meaningful change that will save lives.

“We all watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered at the hands of law enforcement on the streets of Minneapolis – an occurrence that, tragically, is still all too common in this country. However, the events that have followed his senseless killing have been unprecedented. Americans have taken to the streets – not just in Minneapolis, but also in places like Wilmington, Houston, Omaha, Little Rock, Phoenix and Boise. Their message is simple and straightforward: ‘Black lives matter.’ In over 2,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, Americans from all backgrounds, colors, creeds, and walks of life have taken to the streets to peacefully demand lasting and long overdue change.

“As the United States Senate, we have a responsibility not just to hear these calls for change, but to respond in a substantive way. We also have a moral obligation to do all we can to protect and save the lives of innocent fellow Americans. We cannot simply pass something that asks a commission to study what we already know is a reality for Black Americans. We cannot simply pass something that folks can point to or hide behind in an election year. Our fellow Americans have taken to the streets to exercise their First Amendment rights and demand change at all levels of their government. As elected officials, both here in our nation’s Capitol and across America, we need to summon the political courage to meet this moment by enacting meaningful reforms that will finally bring about real change.

“Unfortunately, the bill before us today does not meet the moment. It will save too few lives, and it does not embrace so many of the reforms that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support across our country. 

“For example, according to a recent Reuters poll taken just two weeks ago, 83 percent of Americans – that’s Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – want to ban racial profiling. Unfortunately, the Republican proposal before the Senate this week doesn’t ban racial profiling. 

“82 percent of Americans support banning the use of chokeholds. Unfortunately, the Republican proposal doesn’t fully ban the use of chokeholds.

“91 percent of Americans support allowing independent investigations of police departments that show patterns of misconduct. Unfortunately, the Republican proposal doesn’t strengthen independent investigations.

“And an astounding 92 percent of Americans want federal police officers to wear body cameras. But, unfortunately the Republican proposal doesn’t mandate body cameras for law enforcement either.

“The support for these basic, common-sense reforms is staggering. That is why Senators Harris and Booker included them in the Justice in Policing Act that I am proud to cosponsor, along with more than a third of our Senate colleagues. But Leader McConnell has chosen not to bring that legislation up for a vote. Instead, he has brought forth legislation that largely offers half-measures, studies and commissions while Black men and women cry out that they cannot breathe. And it is particularly galling that Leader McConnell has put forth this insufficient proposal during the very same week that he has pushed through the nomination for a lifetime appointment of yet another federal judge who has repeatedly disenfranchised Black and Brown voters by upholding restrictive voter ID laws, weakening the Voting Rights Act and questioning the existence of voter suppression.  

“Let me pause here to make clear that I respect Senator Tim Scott immensely. He is an honorable man whom I’m fortunate to call my dear friend. I appreciate the thought and the work that he has put into this proposal, and I will encourage him to not give up on trying to find a bipartisan solution that is more in line with the views of the American people. And, we know there are ways to garner bipartisan support for that legislation. It’s important that we do so. Why? Because in the words of Rob Wallace — a friend of both Senator John Barrasso and me — that were spoken last year at his confirmation hearing before the Environment and Public Works Committee, ‘Bipartisan solutions are lasting solutions.’ If we are to truly make undeniable progress in bringing an end to the injustices that still plague our beloved nation after all these years, we need lasting solutions. And, to ensure that they are lasting, it’s imperative that they be bipartisan and, sadly, the legislation that Leader McConnell brings to the Senate floor fails to meet that test. It is modest, at best, at a time when we need to be bold.

“I also know that there are many police officers in the First State who are, and want to continue, contributing positive changes to our communities. Their continued insight and engagement will be critical to the legislative process moving forward. Law enforcement is difficult and dangerous work, and the majority of police officers understand the importance of treating all people they come in contact with the way they would want to be treated. Having said that, everything I do, I know that I can do better, and – if truth be known – that is also true of most of the men and women who serve us as police officers across the country. 

“Finally, while we need to acknowledge that systemic racism will not be eliminated overnight by any one bill, let us also make clear that this moment demands far more of the United States Senate than the measure that Senator McConnell brings before us today. With Americans across the political spectrum supporting much-needed and serious reforms, let’s draft and introduce truly bipartisan legislation that will save lives.  Let’s then hold hearings on it, improve it further in committee, and bring it to this Senate floor for the kind of fulsome debate that the world’s greatest deliberative body was famous for not that long ago. Let us choose to lead and to make real the Latin words carved on the wall above where our presiding officer sits, ‘E Pluribus Unum’ – from many, one.”