Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is willing to pass the bill without it. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison would accept Congress passing the bill without it. Rep. Maxine Waters? Not so fast, tiger.
We're talking about the removal of qualified immunity for police, the apparent sticking point in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is stalled in Congress just shy of the one year anniversary of Mr. Floyd's murder by Derek Chauvin. Qualified immunity is one of the many tools that has shielded police from prosecution and accountability for murdering Black people, and it needs to go. But as Jonathan Capehart and Rep. Maxine Waters discussed on Sunday, Democrats don't necessarily agree on whether or not the issue should hold up the bill.
Whip Clyburn and AG Ellison both stated that they'd be willing (though, of course, reluctant) to "compromise on qualified immunity for police officers to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Passed." When he asked Rep. Waters if she agreed, it was clear that not only did she not, she didn't think they should be broadcasting that they would compromise.
Speaking of AG Ellison, Rep. Waters said, "He's right about it being tough and our negotiators are fighting as hard as they can and should continue to fight, but I'm not giving up on qualified immunity. I do not want to send any message to anybody that I'm willing to support legislation that does not have it in it."
Explaining her insistence on the need to hold police accountable for their behavior, she said, "Even since the death of George Floyd, we continued to have killings of black unarmed men, in particular." What makes it so easy for these officers to get away with murdering innocent Black people? "[T]hese police officers know they have the support of the police unions. They have the support of city council members who are intimidated by the police union. Police chiefs who have inferred that if they don't go along, they can't be chief. And even some mayors....[H]istory tells us that they have been intimidated too long, given in too much, and the police don't believe that they're going to be held accountable. That's why even after George Floyd, they continue to kill and so I want qualified immunity out."
Capehart asked Rep. Waters about the letter to leadership, signed by ten Democrats in the House, demanding that removal of qualified immunity remain in the George Floyd Act, including Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar, Pressly, and others. He wondered why she hadn't signed the letter as well.
She answered, "Well, first of all, I wasn't asked to sign onto the letter."
While personally, that information elicited a WTF?!? response from yours truly, Rep. Waters continued on about the subject with class and wisdom, going so far as to seemingly defend the ten signers from criticism.
"And let me just say, that's what the democratic process is about. The democratic process is about those on either side of the aisle being able to voice their opinion. To be able to use their influence. It's that kind of give and take. It's that kind of using your power of when you have an opportunity to do that. But the members who signed, who got together and signed, that's their right to do so. That's what they believe in," she explained.
They couldn't be bothered to seek out her opinion, though? To circulate the letter amongst the entire Democratic caucus to see if they could get more than ten signatures? They might have actually found an ally in Rep. Waters, who feels as strongly as they do about keeping the qualified immunity issue in the bill.
She concluded, though, by asserting not only her independence, but her decades of bonafides in the arena of fighting against police brutality.
"No, I'm not a part of any letter. I'm just Maxine Waters. The same one that has been fighting for so many years who fought against, you know, the choke hold with Daryl Gates thirty-something years ago. Who fought on behalf of the citizens when Rodney King was half beaten to death," she said. When some of those letter-signers were still in diapers, mind you.
Capehart ended by paying appropriate homage to the venerated California representative, insisting, "Congresswoman Maxine Waters, there's no such thing as,'I'm just Maxine Waters."
Ain't that the truth.