Everything or nothing at all: House Dems flop on policing bill

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Give House Democrats high marks for consistency in this session of Congress. No matter what initiative they attempt, no matter how desperately they can use a win, they have managed in almost every instance to insist on purity to the point of utter failure. In what should have been an easy lay-up on a policing bill to address crime, Nancy Pelosi’s caucus managed to foil itself yet again, at least for now:


House Democrats have abandoned plans to pass an ambitious package of public safety bills, including legislation to ban so-called assault weapons, after days of tumult within their caucus.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team made the decision in a closed-door meeting that included several factions of the caucus that still had concerns with elements of the package. Earlier Wednesday morning, Democrats did not have the votes to pass each piece of the package — leadership can only afford to lose four votes if all Republicans oppose it.

Why not pass the pieces that can get the votes? House Democrats actually had that teed up, but progressives demanded an everything-or-nothing-at-all approach of the kind that sunk the Build Back Better proposal as well as the election-federalizing bill, HR1. Punchbowl reported this morning that the policing bill was on life support not so much due to GOP opposition but because of House moderates fearing a midterm backlash to the progressive demands:

The Congressional Progressive Caucus: The CPC executive board held its own meeting last night. Similar to the CBC, progressives are supportive of some of the bills being considered, including the assault weapons ban, eliminating gunmaker civil liability, violence intervention, training mental health responders and addressing the unsolved homicide backlog.

But the CPC’s members have balked at a pair of bipartisan bills from Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) to provide additional funding for police departments. …

Remember that Jayapal negotiated with Gottheimer last year to allow the $1 trillion infrastructure bill through. Jayapal and progressives gave Gottheimer and moderates that bill, and got nothing when it came to Build Back Better.

 Moderates: Frontline Democrats, led by Gottheimer, have been pressing leadership for months to bring their package of police and anti-crime bills up for a vote. These Frontliners want to rebut GOP attacks that Democrats are soft on crime and/or seeking to “defund the police,” political jabs that were successful for Republicans in 2020. And some moderates have signaled they could oppose a rule for the assault weapons ban if their policing package doesn’t get a vote this week.


Progressives don’t want to fund police departments, which took funding cuts after the initial success of progressive “defund the police” campaigns. As a consequence of that and the progressive-DA project, crime rates have skyrocketed, making it a major issue in the midterm campaigns, especially but not exclusively in marginal Democratic House districts. Those same Democrats may or may not be able to sell an “assault weapons” ban in those districts, but moderates grasp better than these communities really need more police on the streets ASAP.

So now what? Pelosi and other “senior lawmakers” will try again after Labor Day to pass what should have been an easy lay-up:

Senior lawmakers will still work to land an agreement on the package this week so that it can be ready when the House returns sometime in August to vote on other measures, according to a Democrat familiar with the negotiations.

Just like with the infrastructure bill, this is already turning into a net loss. Even if they pass a police funding bill, the griping from progressives will tarnish the accomplishment. It will come too late to campaign on the bill over the recess, leaving vulnerable incumbents with even fewer answers to questions about Democrats’ competency in single-party governance. Don’t forget that the post-Labor Day environment will be consumed with budgetary issues; even if those discussions revolve around a continuing resolution (a certainty), the parameters of that will take up a lot of negotiating time before and likely after September 30. The policing issue might not even come up before the midterms, if Democrats manage to do anything at all — on a crisis that has been unfolding for two years now.


But hey … purity for the win, eh?

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David Strom 10:40 AM | April 12, 2024