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Bipartisan Police Reform Talks Open in Congress After Biden Speech

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A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Thursday started talks on a police reform bill, the morning after Democratic President Joe Biden urged senators and representatives to act before the May 25 anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis policeman.

Republican Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Cory Booker and Democratic Representative Karen Bass were among those tasked with reaching a consensus on a policing bill, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and two Democratic legislative aides said.

Scott told reporters that a group of lawmakers would be meeting on Thursday, but that he did not expect anything to be announced until the second week of May.

The House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, named for the African-American man killed when Derek Chauvin, then a policeman, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked a summer of nationwide protests over policing and systemic racism.

The bill has not yet been taken up by the Senate, where it faces steep odds of getting the bipartisan support it would need to pass the upper chamber. Democrats effectively control 50 of the chamber’s 100 seats, but most legislation requires 60 votes to pass.

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Police unions have opposed changes made in the House’s bill to qualified immunity, which they say will further open the door to lawsuits alleging excessive force.

Scott also introduced a policing bill last year, but it was blocked by Democrats who said his approach relied too much on incentives and too little on mandating changes.

Scott has proposed making it easier for victims of police violence to sue law enforcement agencies, rather than the officers themselves. Bass has said it is important for victims to be able to sue individual officers as well as police, sheriff’s and other departments.

(Story refiles to fix typographical error in senator’s name in 2nd paragraph to make it “Dick” instead of “Dirk”)

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