WASHINGTON — Moderate and Progressive House Democrats reached agreement Wednesday on a long-awaited police and public safety package, a breakthrough they hope will unify the party on a key issue weeks before the midterm election. -mandate.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will vote on the package Thursday, though the Senate has no plans to address the issue before the election.
The package includes four bills drafted by moderate Democrats. One from Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada reportedly funds nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations that work to reduce crime. Another from Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey would provide grants to local police departments with fewer than 125 sworn officers. A third, by Rep. Katie Porter of California, would provide grants to mental health professionals and other resources. And the fourth, from Rep. Val Demings of Florida, would provide grants to police to help solve gun crimes.
All four authors of the bills are in tough races this fall, including Demings who is trying to unseat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida. The police defunding bills aim to blunt campaign attacks from Republicans, who have accused Democrats of wanting to “defund the police” and fail to curb rising crime rates.
The deal came after months of difficult negotiations between Gottheimer, a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and prominent Congressional Black Caucus leaders, including Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio; Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. ; and progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
Asked how the deal was done, Horsford replied: “Perseverance. A lot of staying at the table.”
Demings, a former Orlando police chief, told NBC News that his bill “will help solve homicides in this country; 50% of homicides go unsolved. And it will also help provide support services to survivors and victims left behind by their family members.
“So I think it’s pretty important to give the police the tools and the resources they need to do what they’re supposed to do – and that’s solve the crime,” she said.
House Democrats had tried to introduce a package of policing bills ahead of the summer recess, but progressives and some members of the Black Caucus – who held police to account after the killing of George Floyd by the police in 2020 – threatened to derail the legislation.
Leaders withdrew the package but vowed to revisit the issue before the election.
Two other police bills, drafted by moderate Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., that had previously been part of the negotiations were dropped from the package announced Wednesday.
Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who also took part in the talks, said one of the changes progressives won was to reduce the size of police departments eligible for certain grants under the Gottheimer’s proposal to 125 agents, down from 200 previously.
“We negotiated it and it was good productive and constructive negotiations over the past few days,” Jayapal told reporters. “I think the call for accountability hasn’t really gone away. This appeal to the George Floyd kind of elements of accountability is still very important.