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Vice President Kamala Harris listens as President Biden addresses the nation. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The unanimous guilty verdicts against Derek Chauvin are a huge relief for Washington’s political establishment but seem unlikely to rush in the systemic overhauls George Floyd’s family and civil rights and progressive leaders seek.

The big picture: An acquittal or mistrial involving the former police officer would have unleashed violence and days more of protests — and added bipartisan pressure to act on criminal and police reform.

  • Senior Democratic and Republican aides — who would never let their bosses say so on the record — privately told Axios the convictions have lessened pressure for change.
  • They noted the aftermath of mass shootings: time and again, Congress has failed to pass gun control legislation, and the conversation ultimately moves on until another terrible event occurs.

Yes, but: Several Democrats still hope the conviction brings about broader reforms.

  • During a huge moment sure to be written about in history books, more than a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus huddled around a laptop in the Capitol's Rayburn Reception Room to watch as Judge Peter Cahill announced the jury's decisions in Minnesota.
  • There was an audible chorus of sighs after each "guilty" verdict was read.

CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the top leaders pushing for comprehensive police reform, said they hoped attention from the trial would fuel meaningful change.

  • “It just marks to me the first step, and I'm hoping that, having justice now might serve as a catalyst to really finish the bill,” Bass told Axios.
  • She's recently held conversations with Scott, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and a number of House Republicans about a way forward.
  • "I think the verdict just reinforces that our justice system continues to become more just," said Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate.

At the White House, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watched the verdict with staff in the Private Dining Room. Along with first lady Jill Biden, they then spoke with Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, from the Oval Office.

  • The president rescheduled a speech about his infrastructure package, planned for Tuesday evening, to shift to a nationally televised address focused on the country's next chapter.

This month, Biden backed down from his campaign promise to create a police reform commission, saying he would back other legislation wending its way through Congress.

  • Harris, the nation's first Black and female vice president, urged Congress to enact that reform in light of the behavior triggered by Chauvin's convictions.
  • "We’re going to make something good come out of this tragedy," she said.
  • Biden called the verdicts “a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” and said, “No one should be above the law, and today’s verdict sends that message. But it’s not enough. We can’t stop here.”

Go deeper

Biden to Floyd family: "Now there’s some justice"

President Joe Biden spoke to members of George Floyd's family in the aftermath of Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict, acknowledging that while "nothing is going to make it all better" at least some justice had been served.

The big picture: The verdict is a rare conviction of a police officer, and advocates believe it could be a turning point in the fight for racial justice.

Derek Chauvin found guilty of all 3 charges in George Floyd's murder

Photo: Screenshot of CNN

A jury on Tuesday found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd's death.

Why it matters: This rare conviction of a police officer may come to be seen as a defining moment in America's collective reckoning with issues of race and justice.

Apr 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress, White House brace for Chauvin verdict

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are anxious as the nation awaits the verdict in former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial, fearing a not-guilty decision could exacerbate racial tensions and spark a new wave of riots.

Why it matters: Leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are trying to figure out how to calibrate any personal or legislative response, while also acknowledging how the final outcome in Chauvin's murder trial in the death of George Floyd could affect their district and them politically.