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Virginia Lawmakers Still Think Congress can move on Police Reform

Rog Cogswell / Creative Commons

Virginia lawmakers in both parties say they’re frustrated policing reform efforts have stalled on Capitol Hill.  Besides the finger pointing, lawmakers still think a deal can be reached.

Senate Republican leaders didn’t invite Democrats to the negotiating table on policing reform, so Democrats blocked their bill last week. But the Senate GOP bill included many of the same goals as the bill House Democrats passed last week. But while Democrats want to ban chokeholds and no-knock drug warrants, Republicans want to use federal funding to compel police forces to wind those practices down.

6th District Republican Congressman Ben Cline says he’s disappointed House Democrats went it alone. “The majority was more interested in a campaign talking point then actually making progress to address the issues, which are bipartisan and have consensus on a lot of different areas," Cline says. "So I was hopeful we could get there, but that's the naiveté of a freshman, I guess.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Democratic Senator Mark Warner is singing the same tune. Though he accuses Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of cutting Democrats out of negotiations.   “It doesn't feel like he's treating this issue with the attention that it deserves,” Warner argues.

Virginia’s other Democratic Senator, Tim Kaine, says it’s up to the GOP as to how to proceed, though he hopes GOP leaders encourage bipartisan negotiations going forward. “If they want it to be over, we can't force them to bring it up, but what they ought to do is empower, you know, some bipartisan folks.”

So is policing reform over? Republican Congressman Cline says no.  “Because we had a lot of conversations  and there were a lot of conversations behind closed doors, where you had the agreement there, you had the Democrats agreeing to come to the table and compromise on the issues. And when we deadlock with the Senate, hopefully we can move beyond that to the compromise and actually make progress.”

But with November quickly approaching, the congressional calendar is shrinking by the day. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.