Once a history teacher, always a history teacher. But Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt fears a refresher course might be needed about how a bill in Congress becomes a law.
“Everybody appears to have forgotten the civics lesson on how you pass legislation, thinking it’s take-it-or-leave-it,” he said Thursday.
Blunt offered the observation in the aftermath of the Senate’s failure on Wednesday to advance a Republican bill on policing reform.
The measure, crafted by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, needed 60 votes to move forward to debate. All Republicans in the chamber favored this, while just three Democrats joined in.
In a conference call with Missouri reporters on Thursday, Blunt said Scott’s bill differed only slightly from the measure offered in the Democratic-led U.S. House.
Even if voting in favor of continuing debate on the bill, the Missourian said, senators could have cast dissenting votes later on passage of the measure or in a subsequent vote of a conference report reconciling House and Senate differences.
“To go to conference, you’ve got to have a Senate bill, and to have a Senate bill you’ve got to be willing to debate it,” Blunt said. “I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that we weren’t allowed to move that bill to debate.”
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, had a different read on the GOP bill.
“The Senate Republican Justice Act lacks substance and the strong, desperately needed reforms to stop police brutality against Black Americans,” Schumer said. “This bill lost because it was woefully inadequate. It never would have passed.”
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said he believes Democrats in the Senate want the police measure as a campaign issue in the fall campaign.
“I think it shows that they’re interested right now in trying to stir up division, to stir up a culture war because they think it will help them in November, and that’s a mistake,” Hawley, also a Republican, said.
In an interview Thursday with the News-Press NOW, Hawley took a dim view of the movement among some progressives to “defund the police.”
“I think we ought to be re-funding the police,” the former Missouri attorney general said. “I think we ought to be talking about pay raises for officers who are putting their lives on the line.”
He added, “I think we ought to be talking about reducing the number of hours that police are asked to work, that makes their jobs that much harder.”
Blunt said the Scott reform legislation can be raised again as a procedural matter, but GOP leaders in the Senate had already offered Democrats numerous means of offering amendments. He does not believe a Senate vote on the House bill to be a possibility.
“I think the House bill will be different enough that the Senate deserves to have a Senate bill,” he said. “This idea that your only option is to pass the House bill is just not a reasonable option.”