(Sept. 27) The brokenness of Capitol Hill was evident again late last week with the collapse of long-running negotiations about a criminal-justice reform bill.

Rather than pass nothing, negotiators should have set aside all proposals on which they disagreed and passed at least something containing the items on which they are in accord. Congress seems no longer to recognize that there’s nothing wrong with making a little progress and then coming back later for more.

The reform movement caught fire last year in the aftermath of the murder of distressed suspect George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Many prominent Democrats, of course, pushed the truly stupid idea of “defunding the police,” but lead negotiators Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, worked on a plethora of other proposals.

Among the proposals that should have been easy to pass were ones providing funding to ameliorate mental-health problems of suspects and police, “de-escalation” training for police, a ban on chokeholds such as the one Chauvin used on Floyd, and creation of a national database to track problematic officer-suspect encounters. Plenty of other items, though, were more controversial and thus subject to months of negotiations.

When Booker last week pulled the plug on the effort, establishment media outlets of course rushed to blame Republicans. Republicans blamed Booker, and the iconoclastic outlet the Intercept creatively blamed centrist Democrats . For now, let’s set aside the blame game and the details of the proposals on which the sides were at odds, although it is worth noting that the Republican Scott said he wanted to continue negotiations, but the Democrat Booker balked. Instead, the lesson here is that something should have been better than nothing.

If both sides agree on a national ban on certain types of chokeholds, then why can’t that pass? If all negotiators want federal support for trained “mental health officers” when needed, then why not move forward with that? And so on. …. [The full column is here.]


Tags: , , ,