House Democrats are moving ahead with consideration of a package of policing and public safety bills, narrowly voting to open debate after a several-hour delay on Thursday as the leadership struggled to secure support for the bill to pass.
House Democrats, who have spent months putting together a package of bills to fund police forces to combat campaign-route attacks, are struggling to get the votes to pass on Thursday morning, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Several progressive Democrats have threatened to vote against it, and the House of Representatives entered pause as leadership tried to resolve the issue. House Democrat leaders appear to have persuaded a progressive Democrat — Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — to vote “present” to garner enough votes to pass the long-stalled police funding package that could endanger members, according to a person with knowledge have demanded The reason.
Several other progressive Democrats plan to vote no, so the vote will be close but expected to pass.
House Democrats are taking on a series of four bills as part of their policing and public safety package – the Mental Health Justice Act of 2022, the Invest to Protect Act of 2022, the Break the Cycle of Violence Act and the VICTIM Act of 2022.
The House of Representatives cleared a procedural hurdle Thursday afternoon to open debate on the bill. However, the vote was extremely close, indicating how tight the voting math is for Democrats on the legislation. Pressley voted on the procedural vote to begin debate on the bills.
There were a few tense moments in the House as Democrats tried to figure out how to get the votes needed to pass the police laws during the procedural vote.
Progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who negotiated the bills, was huddled with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, chewing her fingernails at the podium.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to hold up the vote, saying there was one member three minutes away who could vote. As the bills passed, Democrats cheered on the floor.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York and one of four progressives who voted against her party’s police package during the procedural vote opening the debate, vented her frustration with Democrat leadership in the House of Representatives after Democrats voted the had pushed the package forward.
“I think it’s very clear that the point is that our party’s leadership has certain rules for some members and a different standard of rules for others,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN.
Ocasio-Cortez said she was frustrated that two of the bills didn’t go through committees properly. She said she didn’t understand why this package needed to include four pieces of legislation when Progressives had raised concerns about some of the police funding.
“I am really struggling to hear, or have not heard, an explanation as to why these two bills are not being properly brought to the ground on their own merits. And why do they have to be wrapped up with a law that no one saw finalized until yesterday,” she said.
When asked if she disagreed with Pramila Jayapal, the Chair of the Progressive Caucus, and Omar, who is acting as the Progressive Caucus’ whip and voted for the package, Ocasio-Cortez said they support the Caucus and she supports her district.
“We have seen that the vast majority of the progressive faction supports the rule. So you know that they are acting in their role as leaders of the caucus, but we also exist as individual members representing our own communities. And I think they spoke and they had the votes in their group. And we only act as representatives of our districts,” she said.
Progressive Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, who also voted against the package in the procedural vote, told CNN, “We weren’t the problem.”
“Where’s the police accountability?” She asked. “You know when does this happen? When does that come into play.”
Omar told reporters that it “took us a lot to get here” to push ahead with police laws negotiated by various factions of the party.
Asked if she’s confident Democrats could get enough votes to pass the bills if they’re on the floor later today, she said she hopes they can.
“You can never be sure here,” she said. “I just didn’t come in thinking towards the end there’s going to be this glitch and this hiccup and we’re all going to feel like we’re in labor, you know, as we take the final push, so I can’t tell you what’s going to happen becomes. But I’m optimistic the bills will stand and we’ll move forward.”
Supporters of the package announced on Wednesday that after months of negotiations they would reach an agreement to pass the package this week. Hoyer told reporters a vote was scheduled for Thursday, and Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the move comes after a compromise was reached on language that will ensure accountability for police officers and a removed another more controversial bill from the discussions.
The legislation is primarily a news package heading into mid-term as moderate members of the Democratic House of Representatives have sought to protect themselves from political attacks they are leveling at police.
CNN reported earlier this week how dozens of the party’s most vulnerable members have tried to defuse these attacks through a spate of police campaign ads and local law enforcement events.
Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the sponsor of the Invest to Protect Act, said in a statement ahead of the vote that the legislation is “about investing in good policing and protecting our families and our officers.” It will ensure that local departments in New Jersey and communities across the country have what they need to hire and retain the best officers, provide training and invest in providing mental health resources.”
This story and headline were updated Thursday with additional developments.