House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said his Republican conference is open to policing overhauls, a statement that comes after four Minneapolis police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd were charged and protests calling for justice have erupted across the nation.
“George Floyd’s family deserves justice,” the California Republican said in a call with reporters Thursday, referring to Floyd, a black man who was killed as former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for well over eight minutes until he died.
Chauvin had his third-degree murder charge upgraded to second-degree murder on Wednesday when Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced it, along with charges of aiding and abetting murder for the three other former officers who stood by as Floyd died.
McCarthy urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the House back so that members can convene in person and devise a plan of action. House and Senate Democrats, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, will announce a legislative initiative Monday to end racial profiling, excessive use of force and qualified immunity, Pelosi said Thursday on a call with reporters.
“One piece of legislation will not take away discrimination,” McCarthy said. “Sitting and working together, not just within Congress but across our communities, with one another. That is the start and the beginning. That is the way to honor George’s life.”
McCarthy is scheduled Thursday to speak on a call with his Republican colleagues, including members from the Judiciary Committee, to look at ways to improve policing across the nation. He noted three areas that were ripe for swift bipartisan action: ensuring the right training is in place; enhanced oversight and audits of officers who have obtained reports for misusing force; and making it easier to remove bad officers. These are “just some” of the options on the table, he said.
“Those are, I believe, would be the foundation of where we would want to look,” McCarthy said. “I think we could easily find common ground on both sides and we could do it swiftly, but it’s more difficult if you are away.”
McCarthy has put forth a plan to reconvene Congress and wants the chamber to meet in person. House Democrats last month changed the chamber’s rules to allow virtual hearings and markups, as well as proxy voting to avoid gathering in large numbers during the coronavirus pandemic. McCarthy and his Republican colleagues sued Pelosi over the rule change, calling it unconstitutional.
“I believe this is a moment for us, and you’re not going to get it by being on Zoom,” McCarthy said.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.