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Biden, Black Caucus Agree on Reforms   02/03 06:12

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of the Congressional Black Caucus left a meeting 
Thursday with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with an 
agreement on how to address the issue of policing in America after the recent 
killing of Tyre Nichols.

   "We have agreement on how we will continue to work forward both from a 
legislative standpoint as well as executive and community-based solutions, but 
the focus will always be on public safety," Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, the 
chairman of the Black Caucus, told reporters later Thursday.

   Also at the White House were Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Cory 
Booker of New Jersey -- two of the three Black senators -- and Reps. Sheila 
Jackson Lee of Texas, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Joe Neguse of Colorado.

   The group of Black lawmakers did not disclose details about the agreement 
made in the room but said there will be more information about the "legislative 
package" in the days ahead.

   "This is going to require all of us, including Republicans, to get across 
the finish line," Horsford said.

   Before the meeting began, Biden said his hope was that "this dark memory 
spurs some action that we've all been fighting for."

   At Nichols' funeral Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee, Harris said the White 
House would settle for nothing less than ambitious legislation to address 
police brutality.

   "We should not delay. And we will not be denied," Harris said. "It is 
nonnegotiable."

   Bipartisan efforts in Congress to reach an agreement on policing legislation 
stalled more than a year ago, and Biden ended up signing an executive order 
named for George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis police set off 
nationwide protests nearly three years ago.

   Even some political allies of Biden are frustrated with what they view as 
his excess caution on the issue.

   "I think the president is missing the opportunity to be a historic president 
when it comes to the social issues that continue to plague our country," said 
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. "That's what we need."

   Bowman described Biden as "a champion of the status quo in many ways" and 
said Biden needs to be "a champion of a new vision for America."

   The solution, Bowman said, is not "thoughts and prayers, come to the State 
of the Union after your kid gets killed," a reference to Nichols' mother and 
stepfather being invited to attend next week's speech.

   Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was 
in touch with the White House last Friday, when video of Nichols' beating 
became public, about whether the situation could be a catalyst to "get things 
moving again."

   His organization, the nation's largest police union, had participated in 
previous attempts to reach a bipartisan deal, and Pasco said "we welcome any 
constructive effort to help us do our jobs better." The union's president, 
Patrick Yoes, has condemned Nichols' killing and said that "our entire country 
needs to see justice done -- swiftly and surely."

   Pasco said "we're kind of in a wait-and-see mode right now," with 
Republicans recently regaining control of the House, making legislative 
progress much harder. "You've got to look at the political realities here," he 
said.

   House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday signaled an openness to 
discussing the issue.

   South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the sole Black Republican senator, said 
resurrecting the previous Democratic bill is a "nonstarter." He has implored 
Democrats to put aside "tribalism" in order to strike a deal.

   "I've been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot 
at passing," Scott said. "Solutions to increase funding and training to make 
sure only the best wear the badge."

   Biden has embraced calls for overhauling how police do their jobs while also 
emphasizing his longtime support for law enforcement and rejecting proposals to 
cut money. He was elected with strong support from Black voters and is now 
preparing a reelection campaign for 2024.

   Harris, a former prosecutor and the first person of color to serve as vice 
president, has faced scrutiny for her approach to police issues.

   Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said he was encouraged 
that Harris attended the funeral. "This is what people expect, that you'll be 
there for them at a time of need," he said.

   Now, Morial said, "we need a substantive response, not a political response 
where they say, 'Let's just pass something.'"

   Biden's executive order was the product of negotiations among civil rights 
leaders and law enforcement organizations. It mostly focuses on federal 
agencies by requiring them to review and revise policies on the use of force. 
The administration is also encouraging local departments to participate in a 
database to track police misconduct.

   But steps such as making it easier to sue officers for misconduct 
allegations have remained elusive. And the White House made it clear Thursday 
that no executive action taken by the president can substitute for federal 
legislation.

   "We haven't gotten even a fraction of the changes that are necessary," said 
Rashad Robinson, president of the activist group Color of Change. "We haven't 
gotten the kind of structural change to policing that is required."

 
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