A dispute over honoring police officers ultimately came down to a three-letter word at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday.
Sen. Cory Booker brought grammar to the rescue, and he also had something shocking to say.
“That’s going to be used in ads against you, Cory,” Cruz shot back.
It was a risk Booker was willing to take to help Cruz push through an amendment recognizing the “valor, dignity, and integrity” of police officers — after some light copy editing.
Legislative language often hinges on tiny tweaks and grammatical nuances, but this case reinforced how meaningful those tweaks can be.
It all started when ranking member Charles E. Grassley agreed to pare down a resolution recognizing National Police Week, which usually enjoys wide bipartisan support. In past years, the resolution included a phrase recognizing that various officers “across the United States serve with valor, dignity, and integrity.”
This year’s resolution scaled back that language and omitted text about officers serving with valor, instead recognizing the valor only of officers killed in the line of duty.
Cruz called out the change Thursday during the committee meeting and suggested the language be added instead to the end of a separate bill under consideration.
“We ought to be able to recognize that the vast majority of men and women serving in law enforcement are, as the Senate has said each year for the last five years, serving with valor, dignity and integrity,” the Texas Republican said.
The move, in theory, could have forced Democrats to vote against pro-police language that they had previously agreed to. But Booker seized on Cruz’s remarks and offered a slight change — the word “who” could fix the whole problem, he said.
Instead of saying all officers serve with valor, they could say officers WHO serve with valor deserve respect, he proposed.
“[We] put that word ‘who’ in there just to clarify that, unfortunately, we live in a country right now that, as everybody has said, there are bad apples,” the New Jersey Democrat said later in an interview. “We need to ensure that for people who have suffered inhumanity and criminal behavior on behalf of police, we’re not saying everybody just because they have a uniform on.”
The change was a suitable compromise after a year that saw activists marching in the streets to protest racism amid the deaths of George Floyd and others at the hands of police.
“Well, Sen. Booker … I think that is a positive and constructive suggestion,” Cruz said.
Grassley said the initial omission that angered Cruz was meant to “gain more bipartisan support” for the National Police Week resolution, which the Senate agreed to by unanimous consent Thursday evening.
The move was done “in consultation with police groups and this committee,” he said.
As for the new language, it got tacked onto a bill that aims to protect the privacy of officers seeking peer counseling.
Cruz at first proposed this phrasing: “It is the sense of Congress that Federal, State, local, and Tribal police officers, sheriffs, and other law enforcement officers across the United States serve with valor, dignity, and integrity.”
And his editor, Booker, countered with this: “It is the sense of Congress that Federal, State, local, and Tribal police officers, sheriffs, and other law enforcement officers across the United States who serve with valor, dignity, and integrity deserve the gratitude and respect of Congress.”