Moderate and progressive Democrats strike deal on police laws ahead of midterm elections

WASHINGTON — Moderate and progressive House Democrats on Wednesday struck a deal on a much-anticipated police and public security package, a breakthrough they hope will unite the party on a key issue weeks before the midterm elections.

Majority leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will vote on the package on Thursday, though the Senate does not plan to address the issue before the election.

The package contains four bills written by moderate Democrats. One of Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada would fund nonprofit, community and faith organizations working to reduce crime. Another by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey would provide grants to local police departments with fewer than 125 sworn officers. A third, by Rep. Katie Porter of California, would provide grants to mental health professionals and other resources. And the fourth, by Rep. Florida’s Val Demings would give police grants to solve gun crimes.

All four authors of the bills are in tough races this fall, including Demings trying to oust GOP Senator Marco Rubio in Florida. Police funding bills are aimed at dampening campaign attacks by Republicans, who have accused Democrats of wanting to “cut down the police force” and failing to curb rising crime rates.

The agreement came after months of challenging negotiations between Gottheimer, a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and prominent Congressional Black Caucus leaders, including Chairman Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio; Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y.; and progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

When asked how the deal came about, Horsford replied, “Persistence. A lot of sitting at the table.”

Demings, a former Orlando police chief, told NBC News that her bill will “help solve homicides in this country; 50% of murders remain unsolved. And it will also help to provide support services to the survivors and the victims who are left with relatives.

“So I think it’s pretty important to give the police the tools and resources they need to do what they need to do — and that’s solve crime,” she said.

House Democrats had tried to bring up a package of police laws before the summer recess, but progressives and some Black Caucus members — who have held police accountable after the police murder of George Floyd in 2020 — threatened to derail the legislation.

The leadership yanked on the package, but promised to return to the issue before the election.

Two other police bills, written by moderate representatives Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., who were previously part of the negotiations, were removed from the package announced Wednesday.

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who also took part in the talks, said one of the changes progressives have achieved was to narrow the police departments eligible for certain subsidies under Gottheimer’s proposal. to 125 agents, against 200.

“We negotiated it and it has been good, productive and constructive negotiations over the past few days,” Jayapal told reporters. “I don’t think the call for accountability has really gone away. That call for George Floyd’s kind of accountability is still very important.”