It’s been a week of heated discussions in the halls of Congress, as lawmakers work on bringing widespread police reform throughout the nation in the form of new legislation. On Tuesday, Sen. Kamala Harris took to the Senate floor to weigh-in on what she believes is an attempt from GOP Senators to avoid the conversation at the core of a national uprising.  

Last week South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican Senator in Congress, introduced the JUSTICE Act which he claimed looked at long-term solutions focused on police reform, accountability and transparency. The legislation also addressed finding solutions to systemic issues affecting people of color such as education and health disparities. But Democrats and other critics of the bill, say it doesn’t actually speak to the misconduct that has caused so many Black lives to be taken at the hands of the police.

“Let us all be clear on what is happening in the politics of this moment. The Republican bill has been thrown out to give lip service to an issue with nothing substantial in it, that would actually save or would have saved any of those lives,” Harris asserted. “Let’s not be distracted.”

Republicans have blamed Democrats for stalling on police reform as they try to move their legislation forward. But Democrats say voting “yes” for the JUSTICE act will do little to nothing to move the country forward or answer the calls of the protesters who are demanding that policing in America undergo a radical change. The notion that the left is not interested in advancing the cause — simply because they do not wish to advance in the same way the GOP is suggesting — has brought a level of frustration for Harris and her Democratic colleagues.

“For all of the pundits out there that want to entertain a conversation about whether Democrats actually want police reform — are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?” Harris scoffed. “We are responding to the cries in the street. We are taking them seriously. And we have proposed a prescription that actually responds to not just their demands, but the specific cases and the bodies that have just most recently been buried much less the generations of Black bodies that have been buried because of this issue. So, don’t you dare suggest that we are standing in the way of progress.”

Kamala Harris stands folding her arms after addressing the JUSTICE Act
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 23: U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) listens during a news conference following the Democrats weekly policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol June 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After Harris left the floor she reflected on the Senate discussions saying, “Mitch McConnell has put up a hollow policing bill to bait us into playing his political games. But we’re not here to play games. And I do not intend to be played.”

Wednesday afternoon Harris voted “no” on advancing the GOP’s JUSTICE Act. The Senate ultimately voted to block the Republican’s police reform bill, voting 55-45. The legislation fell 5 votes shy of the 60 “ayes” necessary to move forward. 

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