President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Wednesday during his first address to the joint Congress — and gave them a timeline to do so by the anniversary of George Floyd‘s death.
During his hour-long speech that touched on the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and jobs, President Biden urged Democrats and Republicans to coalesce to enact police reform following the conviction of Derek Chauvin and a spate of police-involved deaths of Black and Brown Americans.
Read More: Biden, Harris call George Floyd’s family after Chauvin guilty verdict
Recalling the time he met George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna Floyd, Biden said, “She looked at me and said ‘My daddy changed the world.’ After the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer we can see how right she was if we have the courage to act as a Congress.”
He added, “We have all seen the knee of justice on the neck of Black Americans. Now is the opportunity to make real progress.”
While the president acknowledged that a “majority” of law enforcement officers “serve our communities honorably,” the time is now “to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system.”
“I know Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in productive discussions with Democrats in the Senate,” Biden said. “We need to work together to find a consensus but let us get it done next month by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.”
Democrats in the U.S. House have already passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which would limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil suit against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer. The bill would also create a database to track police misconduct and establish a framework to prevent racial profiling.
Read More: Plaskett slams qualified immunity for ‘modern-day Ku Klux Klan’ police
The bill, however, has yet to be picked up for a vote in the U.S. Senate and is not expected to be passed in the upper chamber of Congress without the necessary support of at least 10 Republicans. A companion bill introduced last year in the Senate was co-authored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and then-Senator Kamala Harris.
But a compromise bill that was introduced by Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina would block Democrats’ attempt to limit or end qualified immunity. Scott is reportedly in negotiations with Sen. Booker and Congresswoman Karen Bass who sponsored the bill passed in the U.S. House.
With the George Floyd Policing Act, Biden said in his address that America has “a giant opportunity to bend the mark of the moral universe toward justice, real justice.”
“We have a real chance to root out systemic racism that plagues America, American lives in other ways,” he added. “The chance to deliver real equity, good jobs, good schools, affordable housing, clean air, clean water, able to generate wealth and pass it down to generations because you have access to purchase a house. Real opportunities in the lives of Black, white, Asian Americans, Native Americans.”
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