(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden met with members of George Floyd’s family on the anniversary of his killing by a Minneapolis police officer as negotiations on Capitol Hill to overhaul law enforcement slipped past the White House’s deadline.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met privately with Floyd’s family, including his young daughter Gianna, at the White House on Tuesday.
Following the meeting, Biden said in a statement that Congress should move quickly to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“I appreciate the good-faith efforts from Democrats and Republicans to pass a meaningful bill out of the Senate,” Biden said. “It’s my hope they will get a bill to my desk quickly.”
Speaking to reporters outside the White House after the meeting, Philonise Floyd -- George Floyd’s brother -- said the family was “just thankful for what’s going on.”
“If you can make federal laws to protect the bird which is the bald eagle, then you can make federal laws to protect people of color,” he said.
Biden called in April for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by Tuesday’s anniversary, but has not applied public pressure since then. Instead, the White House has ceded control to the congressional negotiators, including Democratic Representative Karen Bass of California and Senator Cory Booker, and Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.
The approach reflects “what we feel is most constructive to move these negotiations forward and to get to the final outcome that everybody who advocates for justice, who advocates for reform wants to see, which is signing this bill into law,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
Floyd family attorneys, speaking after the meeting with Biden, called for Congress to pass the legislation. “We have to respect the spilled blood that’s on this legislation,” said attorney Ben Crump. “This must be meaningful.”
White House Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice in a Tuesday interview with MSNBC called the legislation a “a very important step.” The talks, she said, were moving forward in good faith “to see if we can get a meaningful police reform out of the Senate that will move the ball forward as far as we possibly can.”
The three negotiators said in a Monday statement that “while we are still working through our differences on key issues, we continue to make progress toward a compromise and remain optimistic about the prospects of achieving that goal.” Booker told reporters separately “we’re a lot closer” though he said an agreement wasn’t imminent.
The biggest sticking point in the talks is the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which shields police officers from being sued for violating someone’s constitutional or legal rights. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t back any bill that removes the legal protection for individual officers facing civil lawsuits, and it would take 60 votes to advance the legislation in a Senate split 50-50 between the two parties.
The policing act, which passed the House, would ban choke holds and federal no-knock drug warrants, prohibit racial and religious profiling and establish a national standard for police department operations. It would also eliminate the liability protection for officers.
The legislation followed last year’s killing of Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a White police officer in Minneapolis. Floyd’s killing, recorded on video, sparked protests worldwide and gave new urgency to discussions about racial inequities and police treatment of minorities. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted last month on second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
The Floyds also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Bass and other congressional Democrats at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Harris, in a statement after the meeting, said “passing legislation will not bring back those lives lost, but it will represent much needed progress.”
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