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U.S. Senate heads for showdown over Republican police reform bill

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold signs and pictures in front of the U.S. Capitol Building during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst reuters_tickers
This content was published on June 24, 2020 - 16:13

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate headed for a showdown on Wednesday over a Republican police reform bill that Democrats have rejected as too limited to rein in police misconduct, as public protests continue over George Floyd's death.

The bill, crafted by the Senate's only Black Republican, Senator Tim Scott, must garner 60 votes to move forward in the 100-seat chamber. But Republicans control only 53 votes. Democrats have vowed to oppose the measure, while urging Republicans to start over with bipartisan talks on a new bill.

The Congressional Black Caucus, which represents more than 50 African-American lawmakers, said senators should oppose the Republican measure, calling it "a completely watered-down fake reform bill."

Ahead of Wednesday's midday vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that Democrats would bear responsibility if they do not vote to move forward.

"If they do not, the next time another appalling incident makes our nation sick to its stomach with grief and anger yet again, Senate Democrats can explain to the nation why they made sure the Senate did nothing," he said.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said bipartisan talks could produce new legislation within a few weeks. "All is not lost. There is a better path and one we should take," Schumer said.

Floyd's May 25 death in Minneapolis, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked weeks of protests and stirred strong U.S. public sentiment for stopping excessive force by police, especially against African Americans.

But a month later, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are pursuing partisan bills with little chance of winning approval from the Senate and the House of Representatives and being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The House is expected to vote on more sweeping Democratic legislation on Thursday.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

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