May 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House members revive bipartisan police funding bill

Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

A bipartisan group of House members on Friday reintroduced major police funding legislation that last Congress fell just short of becoming law, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The bill offers vulnerable lawmakers in both parties an opportunity to distance themselves from political attacks over calls from the right and left to "defund" certain law enforcement agencies.

Driving the news: Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.) are reintroducing the Invest to Protect Act, according to a press release viewed by Axios.

  • The bill would provide funds to small and midsize police departments — those with fewer than 200 sworn officers — for officer safety, de-escalation and domestic violence response training.
  • It would also create grants for officer recruitment, retention bonuses, mental health resources and education benefits for officers to study mental health, public health and social work.
  • It is supported by a raft of police organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations.

By the numbers: The bill's 44 cosponsors read like a grab-bag of swing-district members in both parties.

  • Among the 35 Democrats: Elissa Slotkin (Mich.), who is running for Senate, Pat Ryan (N.Y.), Susie Lee (Nev.), Eric Sorensen (Ill.), Abigail Spanberger (Va.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Jared Golden (Maine), Wiley Nickel (N.C.), Susan Wild (Pa.), Marie Pérez (Wash.) and Don Davis (N.C.).
  • Among the nine Republicans: D'Esposito, David Valadao (Calif.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Don Bacon (Neb.), Mike Lawler (N.Y.) and Tom Kean Jr. (N.J.).

Background: The 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police inspired protests nationwide and led some progressive lawmakers to revive calls to "defund the police."

  • Despite those calls, U.S. cities largely have not dramatically reduced police department budgets — even increasing them in some cases.
  • More recently, the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, which is tied to a Department of Justice probe into former President Trump's handling of classified documents, kickstarted efforts on the right to "defund" the FBI and DOJ.

Between the lines: Tying Democrats to the "defund" movement has been a favored – and, at times, effective – attack for Republican campaign operatives in recent election cycles.

  • Democrats have tried to turn the tables by tying Republicans to right-wing efforts and votes against the Capitol Police, FBI, ATF and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose probe into hush-money payments made by Trump resulted in the former president's historic indictment.

The backdrop: The Democratic-led House voted 360-64 last September, shortly before the midterm elections, to pass the Invest to Protect Act, which had been altered in negotiations with the Congressional Black Caucus.

  • However, it stalled after the narrowly divided Senate passed the unaltered version by unanimous consent, with neither chamber voting on the other's version of the bill.
  • This time, its backers are more hopeful – the Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) along with six Republicans and eight Democrats, is identical to the House version, according to a source familiar with the matter.
  • One of the bill’s lead sponsors this year, Horsford, is the chair of the Black Caucus.

What we're watching: It is not yet clear whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will hold a vote on the legislation as his Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, did — though 153 of his members supported the legislation last year.

  • Not giving it a vote, the source noted, could leave him open to charges of defunding the police. 
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