TRENTON – After months of negotiations and repeated extensions of self-imposed deadlines, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker announced Wednesday that there would not be a bipartisan deal on how to proceed with police reforms in Congress.

Booker, D-N.J., who was one of the chief Democratic negotiators working on the legislation with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said “there was still took wide a gulf with our negotiating partners” and that “the time has come to explore all other options.”

“After months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal, it remains out of reach right now,” Booker said.

The failure of the talks led to partisan finger-pointing. Scott said Democrats walked away from the negotiating table and “squandered a crucial opportunity.”

“Defunding the police destabilizes our communities. Change requires resources,” Scott said. “I offered to introduce a bill that included our areas of compromise – a bill that activists and law enforcement alike could have supported. Despite having plenty of agreement, Democrats said no because they could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement. Once again, the Left let their misguided idea of perfect be the enemy of good, impactful legislation.”

Scott said areas of agreement included banning chokeholds, limiting the transfer of military equipment and increased mental health resources. One of the major holdups appears to be qualified immunity, which shields most officers from being sued in connection with deaths caused by their actions.

“Regrettably, Senate Republicans rejected enacting modest reforms, which even the previous president had supported, while refusing to take action on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address,” said President Joe Biden.

“Republican intransigence on ending police violence is blocking the basic steps we need to save lives,” said Ben Jealous, president of the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way. “Not only is their refusal to consider ending qualified immunity reprehensible, they also refused to budge on a range of other reforms that actually had the support of law enforcement.”

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Here was Booker’s full statement:

“America has a serious problem when it comes to discriminatory policing and excessive and deadly force used against communities of color. We can’t properly honor the lives of the victims of this violence if we don’t take meaningful steps to prevent future violence and deaths from occurring and make our communities safer.

“We made it clear from the beginning of our negotiations that a bill must ensure true accountability, transparency, and the policing standards necessary to bring an end to horrific incidents of violence Americans are routinely seeing -- like the murder of George Floyd. After months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal, it remains out of reach right now, even after working collaboratively with and securing the support of policing groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police for our proposals.

“Unfortunately, even with this law enforcement support and further compromises we offered, there was still too wide a gulf with our negotiating partners and we faced significant obstacles to securing a bipartisan deal.

“The time has come to explore all other options to achieve meaningful and common-sense policing reform. I will not stop fighting until we achieve change that keeps our communities and police officers safe.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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