Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

June 25, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, legislation implementing bold, unprecedented reforms to curb police brutality, end racial profiling and eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his stalwart support for justice in policing.  Thank you so much for bringing this legislation to the Floor, to you, Mr. Nadler, Members of the Judiciary Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Madam Speaker, exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words, ‘I can't breathe,’ and changed the course of history in our nation.  I’ll never forget that, nor will many others.  I also will never forget his calling out for his mama right there at the end.

Since that horrific day in Minneapolis, Americans from every walk of life and corner of the country have been marching, protesting and demanding that this moment of national agony become a moment of national action, action.  Today, by passing the George Floyd – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the House is honoring his life and the lives of all killed by police brutality by saying never again and taking action.

The Congress and the country are well-served by the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, the conscience of the Congress, as we call it, with George – with John Lewis and so many other leaders – which has been developing these reforms, contained in this legislation, for decades, 49 years to be exact. 

We are blessed to be led by CBC Chair Karen Bass who brings 47 years of leadership advocating for an end to police brutality.  She brings extraordinary gentility, grace and strength to this fight. 

As you know, Madam Speaker, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will fundamentally transform the culture of policing to address systemic racism, curb police brutality and save lives, as it puts an end to shielding police from accountability.  We don't paint all police with the same brush.  But, for those who need to be painted with that brush, we need to take the action contained in this bill. 

This legislation contains bold, unprecedented reforms, including banning chokeholds.  People say, ‘Well, why can't you compromise with the other side?’  Well, they don't ban chokeholds.  We ban chokeholds.  So are we supposed to come up with a number of chokeholds we are going to agree with?  No, we ban chokeholds.  Stopping no-knock warrants on drug offenses, entering – ending the court-created qualified immunity doctrine that is a barrier to holding police officers accountable for wrongful conduct. 

Our distinguished Chairman enumerated all these things just now: combating racial profiling; mandating data collection, including with body and dashboard cameras; strengthening independent investigations of police departments; creating a publicly accessible national police misconduct registry – publicly accessible: that's what the Senate bill does not do.  ‘We'll take the data and keep it to ourselves.’  Well, what's the use? – and establishing strong new standards for policing.

This week, a collection – a coalition of more than 135 leading civil and human rights groups sent a letter stating their opposition to the Senate bill.  We have our bill.  They have their bill.  And this is what 135 leading civil rights groups had to say: the Senate act ‘is an inadequate response to the decades of pain, hardship and devastation that Black people have and continue to endure as a result of systemic racism, and lax policies that fail to hold police accountable for misconduct.  The bill falls woefully short of the comprehensive reform needed to address the current policing crisis and achieve meaningful law enforcement accountability.  It is deeply problematic to meet this moment with a menial, incremental approach, and few policies to effectively address the constant loss of Black lives at the hands of police.  Passing watered-down legislation that fails to remedy the actual harms resulting in the loss of life is a moral statement that is inconsistent with a genuine belief that Black lives matter.’ 

‘Further,’ the letter says, ‘any attempt to amend or salvage’ the Senate act ‘will only serve to check the box and claim reform when, in actuality, no reform has occurred to combat police misconduct and to protect Black lives.’  135 leading civil and human rights organizations said that.

House Democrats hoped to work in a bipartisan way to create meaningful change to end the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality.  However, it is disappointing that the Senate GOP has ignored the voices of hundreds of thousands of people peacefully calling out for justice and progress, day in and day out, week in and week out, for the past month. 

Their proposal, the Senate proposal, mimics the words of real reform but takes no action to make any difference.  It's inadequate and unworthy of support.  During this moment of action – anguish – during this moment of anguish, which we want to turn into action, it would be a moral failure to accept anything less than transformational change.  Yet, it is clear that the White House has zero interest in real change. 

Yesterday, the White House went so far to issue a – to issue a veto threat stating that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would deter good people from pursuing careers in law enforcement.  No, Mr. President, good people are pursuing careers in law enforcement.  Banning chokeholds is not going to deter good people from pursuing careers in law enforcement. 

That is their concern, the White House's concern.  Hundreds of people are dying.  Vetoing this will make the White House, what? Ignoring of this epidemic? 

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a bill that American people are insisting on, that this moment in history demands, and what is shameful, bad faith act to dismiss the will of the public out of hand. 

Two weeks ago, Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, testified so beautifully and powerfully before Mr. Nadler's Committee, the Judiciary Committee, on this legislation.  He said, that day, ‘The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough.  Be the leaders that this country, this world, needs.’  That was his challenge to us. 

Then he said, ‘George's name means something.  If his death ends up changing the world for the better, and I think it will, I think it has, then he will have died as he lived.  It's on you to make sure his death isn't in vain.’

Today, with this bill, we have the opportunity and the obligation to ensure that George Floyd's death and the deaths of so many are not in vain.  Their lives matter.  Black lives matter.

With that, I urge a strong bipartisan on the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.  Justice is for George by passing this bill. 

With that, I yield back, and I thank the Chairman for his leadership on these issues, not only today and this past month, but over time.  Thank you, Mr. Nadler.

I urge an aye vote and I yield back.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.