Mitch McConnell’s latest political maneuver is all but guaranteed to doom bipartisan police reform negotiations in the Senate.
The Senate Minority Leader on Tuesday said he is against taking qualified immunity away from police officers. Qualified immunity shields officers from being sued in civil cases, and has become the primary sticking point in negotiations over police reform legislation. South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, along with New Jersey Democrat Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass of California have been leading the talks, with a deadline of June to get something done. But many on the Republican side of the negotiations are against removing legal protection from law enforcement.
Democrats passed a bill named after George Floyd in the House last year, only to see it stall in the Senate. Scott’s much less expansive reform bill, which did not include removing qualified immunity, was also blocked by Democrats. Lawmakers on the left see removing qualified immunity as essential to their plans for police reform.
Now McConnell is weighing in and making the argument that exposing police officers to civil lawsuits would make it impossible for cops to do their job.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on legal protection for police officers, which is a major sticking point in police reform negotiations:— The Recount (@therecount) June 1, 2021
“Without qualified immunity, how do you get people to do law enforcement work?” pic.twitter.com/OIrTIS3Ce7
But McConnell’s argument runs up against the reality of the real world.
Medical professionals aren’t exempt from legal liability, neither are teachers, or pilots.
The longtime Kentucky senator’s shamelessness is well-established. This is the same man who said the filibuster has any sort of racist history to it, which he and many others know is patently false. But ever since Joe Biden took office, McConnell has reverted back to a familiar position for him: The role of Capitol Hill’s primary obstructionist.
Much as when he declared his goal to make Barack Obama a one-term president, McConnell has said 100% of his focus is on blocking the new administration. Now, at least it is an honest accounting of his strategy. And his approach to police reform, something that has been a major topic of conversation across the U.S. for almost two years, is consistent with the obstructionism he loves to practice whenever he doesn’t have the political upper hand.
Considering the success he had in derailing the bill calling for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, those with hopes of seeing any type of substantive police reform bill passed by Congress should drastically lower their expectations.