Politics

Biden White House weighs executive orders for police reform amid Floyd bill collapse in Congress







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The White House is trying to pick up the broken pieces of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which failed in negotiations on Capitol Hill, by exploring ways President Joe Biden can mend together some type of police reform through presidential executive orders.

TheGrio has exclusively learned that White House officials this week, including senior-level Black members of the administration Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and the head of public engagement Cedric Richmond, met with civil rights attorneys and families of Black men and women killed by police.  Those represented on the call were the families of George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Ronald Green and Ahmaud Aubrey

Knowledge of this meeting was previously unknown.

The Family Of George Floyd Visits Leaders In Washington DC
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, speaks with other members of the Floyd family as they answer questions outside the White House following a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden May 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There will be separate meetings with civil rights leaders on the issue but the White House wanted to meet first with families. 

Biden officials are working to address police reform through executive orders as negotiations caved on the Hill between Democrats Congresswoman Karen Bass and Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Tim Scott.

As a point of reference, Sen. Scott felt the sides were too far apart on policing with the issue of qualified immunity being one of the major sticking points of the negotiations. President Biden is also on record saying he did not believe reform of qualified immunity, which provides legal protection for police, should be removed.

During an interview last month, Scott also said he walked away from the negotiating table because, from his view, language in the bill that would withhold federal dollars from police departments that do not comply with proposed reforms is “defunding the police.”

The question of Scott being an honest broker on behalf of Republicans to come up with a bipartisan police reform bill has been a cloud over the negotiations as his claim that “America is not racist” in his Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s joint address to Congress earlier this year have loomed negatively over the negotiations considering the role race has played in the national conversation and reality about policing in America.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak briefly to reporters as they exit the office of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) following a meeting about police reform legislation on Capitol Hill May 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Sources near the police reform conversation with the White House this week tell theGrio that the administration can escalate prosecutions for bad actors at police departments based on current laws already on the books.

Kurt Schmoke, attorney and president of the University of Baltimore, tells theGrio that the U.S. Department of Justice can “direct U.S. Attorneys to give certain crimes priorities.”

TheGrio exclusively asked a former high-ranking Democratic official about what teeth the executive orders could have. 

“Not a huge amount. Most policing is done by states and localities. But [the president] has a huge bully pulpit,” said the source. With a keen understanding of the law and how the White House works, the former official went on to say, “You can order things for federal law enforcement and you can condition the receipt of federal funds to the states on certain conditions being met.”

Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, looks on as U.S. President Joe Biden meets with advisors, union and business leaders about infrastructure in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When it comes to blame for not getting police reform done, the source lays the blame on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Failure to come up with a bill from Congress on police reform shows how dysfunctional Congress is,” the source aded. “The American people, regardless of party affiliation, support meaningful reform.”

Sources on this week’s initial police reform call contend the civil rights lawyers had submitted to the Biden transition team a list of executive actions that could be taken on Biden’s first day and or first week in office. The families and leaders resubmitted the paper during the impromptu virtual meeting. The submission included increased funding for the civil rights division of the Justice Department, and federal review for police-involved deadly and violent incidents.

TheGrio reached out to several members of the Biden White House. No comment as of yet. 

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