• Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only Black republican in the Senate authored the bill and accused Democrats of walking out on negotiations
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Democrats are not even trying to find common ground
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said the GOP bill was written "to check a box, not save a life"

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked the Republican police reform bill, which Minority Leader Chuck Schumer characterized as a “fig leaf” that did little to effect “meaningful reform.”

The bill, which needed 60 votes to advance, failed on a 55-45 vote.

“The Republican majority proposed the legislative equivalent of a fig leaf — something that provides a little cover but no real change,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor ahead of the vote. “The harsh fact of the matter is, the bill is so deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed, it cannot serve as a useful starting point for meaningful reform.”

The bill was drafted largely by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only Black Republican in the Senate. Scott lashed out after the vote, saying he was frustrated and accused Democrats of walking out on negotiations even though GOP lawmakers were willing to consider amendments.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., saw Wednesday’s vote as a wasted opportunity.

“Republicans in the House have been shut out and Senate Democrats are now refusing to even try and find common ground with Republicans on police reform,” he tweeted. “I am bitterly disappointed by the fact that Senate Democrats will not even allow debate.”

There are sharp partisan differences on the issue of police reform. Democrats want police to lose “qualified immunity,” which protects them from lawsuits for doing their jobs – something the White House and some Republican lawmakers consider a “poison pill.” The bill also did not ban chokeholds or curb no-knock warrants, two other Democratic priorities, opting instead to study the practices.

“Senate Democrats just stood up for every single person who has marched against police brutality,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a Facebook post. “At this moral moment in this country, we must pass bold transformative change. We don't need studies, we need action.”

The Republican bill “does nothing” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an MSNBC interview, calling the bill proposed by Democrats far superior. She also declined to apologize to Scott for saying Republicans are “trying to get away with murder, actually, the murder of George Floyd,” who died Memorial Day, begging for air as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. The death touched off nationwide protests.

“The Republican bill was written to check a box, not save a life. It is designed to obstruct real solutions and completely ignores changes that would have saved the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless Black Americans killed at the hands of law enforcement. It does nothing to address the need to hold police accountable for misconduct,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said in a statement.