Senate Dem, GOP leaders find common ground on police reform, oppose defunding

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Senate Judiciary Committee leaders from both parties appeared to share some degree of common ground when it comes to police reform, supporting legislation that would create change, while opposing the recent calls for defunding police departments.

Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., both addressed the issue of police reform Tuesday, a day after Democratic leaders unveiled a bill that proposes sweeping changes to how officers can act and be held accountable.

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“It sounds like a good thing,” Graham told reporters in reference to a ban on chokeholds and similar maneuvers.

A ban is one of several ideas being discussed after George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by his neck by a Minneapolis police officer.

“I think ban on chokeholds is appropriate,” Feinstein said earlier in the day, while expressing skepticism over whether any current reform packages could pass.

In recent days, some Democrats have spoken in favor of defunding police departments. When asked if she supports this, Feinstein said she does not.

“I just don’t believe in that as an answer -- that you take money from a department. It would have to be crippled to have effect,” she said.

Feinstein follows presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in opposing the concept of defunding police.

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Graham also opposed defunding but said the current climate in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death – and other high-profile incidents -- has led to a moment where reform is possible.

“I think it's just affected people, the cumulative effect of it all,” he said. “People responding that we can do better -- not defunding the police, but reforming the police is something we can manage.”

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The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that they will take a closer look at police conduct at a hearing titled “Police Use of Force and Community Relations,” set to take place Tuesday, June 16.