President-elect Joe Biden is urging civil rights leaders to reconsider how much attention they want to give the issue of police reform ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff elections in January.
In leaked audio from a Zoom call he had with civil rights leaders on Tuesday, obtained by The Intercept, Biden was heard urging attendees to hold off on calls for police reform in the run-up to the January 5 elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.
“I also don’t think we should get too far ahead of ourselves on dealing with police reform in that,” Biden said, adding, “Because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police’ anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing — which I promise you, will occur. Promise you.”
He continued, “Just think to yourself and give me advice whether we should do that before January 5. That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable.”
“I just raise it with you to think about. How much do we push between now and January 5? We need those two seats,” he added.
However, he stressed that police reform will be a “major, major, major” element of his agenda.
Listen to the audio below:
“Defund the police” became a popular phrase among protesters after the death of George Floyd.
However, several prominent Democrats have raised concerns that the phrase cost the party in the November 3 election. While Biden won the White House, Democrats came up short in their bid to flip the Senate, and saw double-digit losses in the House.
He added, “The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?”
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) argued the phrase hurt Democratic Senate challenger Jaime Harrison, “That stuff hurt Jaimie, and that’s why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I’ve always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.”
“We are all about making headway, and I just hope that going forward, we will think about each one of these Congressional districts and let people represent their districts,” he added.
Voters will go to the polls again on January 5 to vote in two runoff elections for the state’s Senate seats that will determine which party controls the Senate for at least the next two years. If Democrats win both seats, there will be a 50-50 tie in the Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being able to cast the tie-breaking vote.