WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Senate held its first hearing over police reform Tuesday as President Trump signed an executive order on the topic.
“All Americans mourn by your side,” Trump said to families of those killed by police. “Your loved ones will not have died in vain.”
Before the signing, President Trump met privately with a number of these families, who told him how the legal doctrine called qualified immunity shields police from lawsuits and is stopping their own fights for justice. It has become one of the biggest debates on Capitol Hill as Congress works to pass a police reform package .
“Certainly, there will be sticking points,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA. “Qualified immunity, for one.”
Kennedy said there is widespread support among Republicans for their version of a police reform bill, which does not include changes to qualified immunity. But Democrats’ legislation would make it easier to sue police.
During Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Doug Logan Jr., the professor of Urban Ministry at Grimké Seminary in Virginia, told lawmakers reforming qualified immunity is needed to hold officers more accountable.
“Without that, then the culture comprehensively will have a feel of, ‘I can do what I want, and I can get away with it,'” Logan said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who chairs the committee, said he is open to negotiations with Democrats on the issue.
“There are a lot of ideas coming from different corners of the political spectrum,” Graham said. “The question for the committee: is it possible to find common ground?”
Other differing views on a legislative package surround the use of force. While the Democrat plan calls for an all-out ban on chokeholds, President Trump’s executive order would leave an exception: if an officer’s life is at risk.
For now, the GOP bill does not call for a ban but more tracking and training on the use of force.
Graham said Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, the Senate’s lone Black Republican and the lead on the legislation, will introduce it Wednesday.