Jan 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Frontline Dems seek cover with bipartisan police bill

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Moderate, frontline Democrats facing tough re-election fights are teaming up with House Republicans on a bill that would effectively help fund the police, according to a copy of the bill text obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: One of Republicans' core and most effective campaign attacks to date is their messaging around progressive rhetoric to "defund the police." Moderate Democrats have long tried to dodge that narrative, acknowledging its political peril despite their support for broader police reform.

What they're saying: "You need to invest, not defund," Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told Axios. He's leading the coalition that sponsors the bill.

  • Asked if this was a push to specifically "fund" the police, Gottheimer replied, "Correct. If you want you want more safety ... you can't get there if you just cut, cut, cut."
  • "Instead of doing nothing, isn't it much better to get something significant done?" he said. "I think we've proven with this that we can get bipartisan support."

Details: The “Invest to Protect Act" is designed to pump fresh resources into police departments with fewer than 200 officers — which accounts for the majority of departments nationally.

  • The meat of the language is focused on areas of agreement emerging from previous police reform negotiations.

Provisions include:

  • Investing in officer safety, de-escalation and domestic violence response training.
  • Allocating resources for body cameras — specifically funding for data storage and data security.
  • Supplying grants for small departments to recruit new officers.
  • Providing retention bonuses and investment for officers pursuing graduate degrees in public health, social work and mental health.
  • Providing critical resources for departments to provide mental health resources for their officers.

Be smart: It's unclear how much support this bill will get — particularly in the Senate where the 50-50 party split has stalled most other legislation.

  • But the degree of bipartisan backing is something that's been encouraging not only to the members who've already signed on but to leadership, Gottheimer said.

Key players: The bill's original cosponsors include:

  • 21 Democrats: Reps. Gottheimer; Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.); Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.); Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.); Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.); Chris Pappas (D-N.H.); Dean Phillips (D-Minn.); Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.); Ed Case (D-Hawaii); Elaine Luria (D-Va.); Jim Costa (D-Calif.); Jared Golden (D-Maine); Tom O'Halleran (D-Ariz.); Anthony Delgado (D-N.Y.); Cindy Axne (D-Iowa); Angie Craig (D-Minn.); Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.); Filemon Vela (D-Texas); Susie Lee (D-Nev.); Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.) — former chief of the Orlando Police Department.
  • 17 Republicans: Reps. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) — former sheriff of Duval County; Don Bacon (R-Neb.); Fred Upton (R-Mich.); Steve Chabot (R-Ohio); Tom Reed (R-N.Y.); David Valadao (R-Calif.); Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.); Peter Meijer (R-Mich.); Jason Smith (R-Mo.); Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.); John Katko (R-N.Y.); Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.); Dave Joyce (R-Ohio); Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-Wash.); Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.); Dan Meuser (R-Pa.); and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.).
  • The bipartisan bill is also endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriff's Association and the National Troopers Coalition.

Read the bill:

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Markwayne Mullin is a U.S. representative for Oklahoma, not Ohio.

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