(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss pushing policing reform in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols.
As the group gathered in the Oval Office, Biden said it was his hope that the “dark memory” of Nichols’ death “spurs some action that we’ve all been fighting for.”
“We got to stay at it, as long as it takes,” the president said.
Attendees included CBC chair Rep. Steven Horsford, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Raphael Warnock, Rep. James Clyburn, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Joe Neguse — all Democrats.
Calls for legislative action have grown in the weeks following the fatal encounter between Nichols and Memphis police. Graphic footage of the Jan. 7 confrontation showed officers striking and kicking Nichols after a traffic stop. He died three days later. According to a preliminary independent autopsy commissioned by the family, he suffered from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
Nichols’ parents, attorney Ben Crump and Rev. Al Sharpton all pushed for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as they delivered remarks at Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday. Harris, too, demanded Congress pass the legislation, calling it “nonnegotiable.”
“The death of Tyree Nichols is yet another example of why we do need action,” Horsford said as the caucus sat down with the president and vice president.
“We need your help to make sure we can get the legislative actions that are necessary to save lives, and to make public safety the priority that it needs to be for all communities,” he told them.
The group did not elaborate on any specific policies they planned to discuss as they entered the otherwise closed-door meeting.
But any policing reform faces an uphill battle in the now-divided Congress.
ABC News’ Justin Gomez pressed President Biden on whether police reform will be possible this Congress just before his meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
“I hope so,” Biden said as he held up his hands and crossed his fingers.
In advance of Thursday’s meeting between the Congressional Black Caucus and Biden, Republican Sen. Tim Scott poured cold water on the idea of using the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a starting point in negotiations.
“Resurrecting the House progressives’ police reform bill is a non-starter,” Scott wrote in a Twitter thread.
The legislation passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2021 but stalled in the Senate, with impasse occurring primarily over the issue of qualified immunity for officers.
Scott has been at the center of police reform negotiations in the Senate in recent years, and he worked with Booker in 2021 to try to get a deal on the issue. His sign approval of any policing reform bill would likely be essential in garnering the necessary Republican support in the Senate.
“I’ve been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing,” he tweeted. “Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge. Solutions that would have made a difference in places like Memphis & Kenosha.Here’s the truth: We can get something meaningful done. We can pass a bill that the majority of Congress–and the majority of Americans–would agree on.”
House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters at his weekly press conference Thursday he’d spoken to Congressional Black Caucus leaders ahead of their meeting at the White House.
Jeffries declined to say when exactly Democrats would put forward a policing bill, saying he wouldn’t get ahead of the meeting.
“We do need to have a real, genuine, authentic, and bipartisan conversation about dealing with police reform in America, and figuring out how do we strengthen the relationship between the police and the community,” Jeffries said.
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