By CHRIS MEGERIAN, FARNOUSH AMIRI and SEUNG MIN KIM Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, facing renewed pressure to overhaul policing practices after the killing of Tyre Nichols, met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday to explore the possibility of getting such a bill back on track.
“My hope is this dark memory spurs some action that we’ve all been fighting for,” Biden said before the start of the Oval Office meeting.
At the White House were Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Cory Booker of New Jersey _ two of the three Black senators _ and Reps. Steven Horsford of Nevada, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Joe Neguse of Colorado.
Horsford, the caucus chairman, said it was long past time to have a “genuine” conversation about policing in America. “I am working to make sure that we have a clear plan.“
At Nichols’ funeral Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee, Harris said the White House would settle for nothing less than ambitious legislation to address police brutality.
“We should not delay. And we will not be denied,“ Harris said. “It is nonnegotiable.”
Bipartisan efforts in Congress to reach an agreement on policing legislation stalled more than a year ago, and Biden ended up signing an executive order named for George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis police set off nationwide protests nearly three years ago.
Even some political allies of Biden are frustrated with what they view as his excess caution on the issue.
“I think the president is missing the opportunity to be a historic president when it comes to the social issues that continue to plague our country,“ said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. “That’s what we need.”
Bowman described Biden as “a champion of the status quo in many ways” and said Biden needs to be “a champion of a new vision for America.”
The solution, Bowman said, is not “thoughts and prayers, come to the State of the Union after your kid gets killed,“ a reference to Nichols’ mother and stepfather being invited to attend next week’s speech.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was in touch with the White House last Friday, when video of Nichols’ beating became public, about whether the situation could be a catalyst to “get things moving again.”
His organization, the nation’s largest police union, had participated in previous attempts to reach a bipartisan deal, and Pasco said “we welcome any constructive effort to help us do our jobs better.” The union’s president, Patrick Yoes, has condemned Nichols’ killing and said that “our entire country needs to see justice done _ swiftly and surely.“
Pasco said “we’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode right now,“ with Republicans recently regaining control of the House, making legislative progress much harder. “You’ve got to look at the political realities here,” he said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday signaled an openness to discussing the issue.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the sole Black Republican senator, said resurrecting the previous Democratic bill is a “nonstarter.” He has implored Democrats to put aside “tribalism” in order to strike a deal.
“I’ve been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing,“ Scott said. “Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge.”
Biden has embraced calls for overhauling how police do their jobs while also emphasizing his longtime support for law enforcement and rejecting proposals to cut money. He was elected with strong support from Black voters, and he is now preparing a reelection campaign for 2024.
Harris, a former prosecutor and the first person of color to serve as vice president, has faced particular scrutiny for her approach to police issues.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said he was encouraged that Harris attended the funeral. “This is what people expect, that you’ll be there for them at a time of need,“ he said.
Now, Morial said, “we need a substantive response, not a political response where they say, `Let’s just pass something.”’
Biden’s executive order was the product of negotiations among civil rights leaders and law enforcement organizations. It mostly focuses on federal agencies by requiring them to review and revise policies on the use of force. The administration is also encouraging local departments to participate in a database to track police misconduct.