As Senate Considers Republican Police Reform Bill, Cantwell Calls for Strong Federal Role to Protect Civil Rights, Ensure Accountability

Cantwell: When it comes to civil rights, Americans “want justice” - “a report… is not enough”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate considers a Republican police reform bill, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke today about the importance of the federal role in upholding civil rights and ensuring accountability.

“Are we going to uphold the rights of all Americans, or just some Americans? I would say to my colleagues: if we are not upholding all Americans’ rights, then we aren’t really upholding America’s civil rights,” Cantwell said.

“In fact, I think that is the central question of this debate. Are we going to have a strong federal role in protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans to prevent excessive force by police?”

In her remarks, Cantwell criticized Republican efforts to limit the federal role in protecting civil rights and promoting accountability and transparency, saying they do not go far enough.

“With all due respect to the Majority Leader, it’s called the Federal Civil Rights Act for a reason… Rosa Parks was not looking for 75 percent – she was looking for someone to uphold her rights.”

“What we’re hearing today is minimize the federal role. Where would we be if President Kennedy had taken that approach? He fought for equal protection under the law for access to education and to end discrimination and segregation when Southern governors wouldn’t do so,” Cantwell continued. “There is a federal role in protecting the civil [rights] of all Americans, and we should not be abdicating it today with this vote.”

Cantwell urged her colleagues to vote against the “weak” Republican legislation and to push for bipartisan legislation with comprehensive reforms:

“Everyone around here knows the way to get good bipartisan legislation,” Cantwell said. “But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is a predetermined process to get a bill that is not good enough for the American people. Voting yes is just an attempt to dictate a weak outcome when what America wants more than anything else is justice. They want justice, guaranteed by a strong federal response.”

Earlier this month, Senator Cantwell joined U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus to introduce the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, comprehensive legislation to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement, and attempt to build trust between law enforcement agencies and communities. She also spoke on the Senate floor about the need for new federal legislation to protect civil rights and implement important police reforms.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE and audio is HERE.