House Democrats advanced a rule covering policing and public safety bills on Thursday after a vote was initially delayed because of opposition from a coalition of progressive Democrats.
Members of the far-left “Squad” voiced opposition to the lack of “accountability measures” in one of the four bills up for consideration, threatening to tank the entire package. They also took issue with how some of the bills were brought up through a fast-track process.
The chamber ultimately passed the rule in a 216-215-1 vote.
Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) joined Democrats in voting against the measure. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) voted present.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), another member of the squad, backed the rule, as did Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A spokesperson Bush shortly before the vote was initially to take place said the congresswoman was opposed to one of the bills — sponsored by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) — and called for the other three measures to be considered separately.
Rule votes are typically partisan votes. While some Republicans are expected to vote in favor of some of the bills, they traditionally vote against rules even if they support the legislation.
The chamber must approve the rule before debating and holding final votes on each piece of legislation.
The Gottheimer bill would allocate federal grants to local law enforcement agencies that have fewer than 125 officers. Bush said it did not include basic measure to ensure accountability by police.
“Even the most barebones accountability measures like those included in the House-passed Justice in Policing Act were not incorporated into the Rep. Gottheimer bill, which would add nearly a quarter billion dollars in police funding over the next 5 years without addressing the crisis of police brutality — and this despite the strong and continued urging from civil rights and racial justice advocacy leaders to chart a more humane path,” Bush’s spokesperson wrote in a statement.
“As such, Congresswoman Bush maintains her opposition to that bill and supports decoupling its consideration from the other important public safety measures that the House should take up immediately,” the spokesperson added.
The procedural vote for the policing bills was initially scheduled to begin between 9:50 a.m. and 10 a.m., but the House went into recess at 9:55 a.m. The rule ultimately passed just before 1:30 p.m.
Democrats currently hold a small 221-212 majority in the House, which means the caucus can only afford to lose four members in any vote.
Speaking to reporters following the vote, Bush again pointed to the lack of police accountability in the Gottheimer bill.
“We weren’t the problem, because we feel like where is police accountability? You know, when does that happen? When does that come into play? When does that prioritize?” Bush said.
She said the bill allocates “unchecked, unmonitored money.”
Ocasio-Cortez took issue with two of the bills — including the Gottheimer measure — being brought to the floor through a fast-track process.
“I have not heard an explanation as to why those two bills aren’t being properly introduced to the floor on their own merits. And why must they be packaged with a piece of legislation whose final version no one saw before yesterday, who did not get introduced to committee, did not get debated, why we are doing this?” she said.
“And why are some people allowed to completely subvert our democratic processes internally, and why some of us sort of are held to higher standards than others?” she added.
When announcing a deal on Wednesday, key Democratic lawmakers noted that some of their colleagues may vote against the bills.
“Every member of the [Congressional Black Caucus] may not weigh in on it or vote for it — and I’m OK with that,” Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the Black Caucus, told reporters. “But we wanted to make sure we could say we’re doing the best we can at this time.”
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), the sponsor of one of the bills under consideration, sounded a similar note in regards to her progressive colleagues, telling reporters that while some may defect, “a bulk” of the caucus was behind the deal.
Mike Lillis and Cheyanne Daniels contributed.