House approves measure condemning ‘calls to defund the police’

The House approved a resolution Friday that condemns “calls to defund the police,” taking aim at the rallying cry embraced by some progressives amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

The chamber approved the four-page measure in a 337-61 vote, with all opposition coming from Democrats, a number of whom are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The nonbinding resolution — which Republicans brought to the floor as part of their Police Week legislative push — condemns calls to defund the police, which the measure claims “has increased violence towards law enforcement officers.”

It also “expresses condolences and solemn appreciation” to the loved ones of law enforcement officials who were killed in the line of duty, and it recognizes the need for better data collection regarding officers who are assaulted, injured or disabled in the line of duty, among other provisions.

The “defund the police” resolution was one of several law enforcement-related measures House GOP leadership brought to the floor as part of Police Week. Republicans have sought to put a spotlight on crime, which has become a central topic in the 2024 election cycle and emerged as a key weak spot for President Biden as he vies for another four years in office.

“Under Joe Biden and far left failed leadership, the safety of America’s law enforcement has been sacrificed for the sake of the Democrats pro-criminal agenda,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the chair of the House GOP conference, said Wednesday. “Lawless liberals handicap our police from doing their jobs with failed bail reform like my home state in New York and pro-criminal policies that appease the far left Democrats’ defund the police agenda.”

A number of Democrats, however, slammed the Police Week proposals as messaging bills.

“Resolutions that mislead the public about violent crime rates, legislation that increases the availability of deadly weapons in our communities, and bills that fuel xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments do not make our communities safer–for our children, for our most vulnerable neighbors, for law enforcement, other first responders, or anyone else,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) wrote in a statement earlier this week.

The phrase “defund the police” was popularized following the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly after the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Black advocates argued police departments were overfunded, allowing for the overpolicing of Black communities.

For many advocates, defunding the police would mean reinvesting city and state funds from law enforcement to services such as mental health services or other first responders.

But many opposed to the concept argued the phrase — and advocates — demonized law enforcement. They also expressed concerns that limiting the police budget would lead to a closure of police departments, though advocates said they do not want police departments abolished.

Republicans have seized on the rallying cry since it surged in popularity, with GOP lawmakers using it as a way to argue that Democrats are anti-police.

The House Democratic campaign arm, however, pointed out that the Republican Study Committee (RSC) — the largest conservative caucus in the lower chamber — released a budget proposal in March that called for reducing funding to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, the federal program that offers funding for various levels of law enforcement agencies.

“Conservatives support our men and women and blue but should question whether the government should involve itself in state and local law enforcement, even if it is only a matter of funding,” according to the RSC budget.

“The federal government should not bail out cities that wish to cut their police budgets, so the RSC Budget would support a reduction to this program,” the budget adds.

Asked about that provision of the RSC budget Wednesday, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) — a former chair of the RSC — said he hasn’t “looked into the details of the RSC budget” before shifting the focus back on to Democrats.

“A lot of the Democrats in the House now are trying to revise history and pretend as though and even say that they never supported defund police,” Johnson said.

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