House progressives balk at funding police after voting to ban "assault weapons"

House progressives balk at funding police after voting to ban "assault weapons"
(AP Photo/, Genna Martin)

The House passage of a ban on so-called assault weapons was supposed to be the first part of a two-step grand bargain struck by Nancy Pelosi and the various factions in the Democratic caucus. The handful of “moderates” that were reluctant to go on the record in support of a gun ban were supposed to suck it up and vote for HR 1808 in exchange for progressives gritting their teeth and going along with a bill that would give federal grant money to local police departments.

When it came time to actually vote on the measures, however, progressives balked at the police funding bill because they said it lacked “accountability reforms”. Pelosi still managed to make the gun ban vote happen after she claimed that a deal had been struck with progressives; they’d vote on the gun ban before they adjourned for their August recess and then vote on the amended police funding bill when they returned.

Well, the House is heading back into session later this week, but according to Punchbowl News, there won’t be a vote on the police funding bill because progressives have reneged on the deal.

“Let’s not step on our message of unity and success with something that, honestly, will be very divisive,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told us in an interview on Monday.

A Democratic leadership source also said the CBC wants more time to work on these bills, further signaling that the leadership probably won’t be able to overcome opposition in the brief time the House is expected to be in session this week.

The Republican campaign ads write themselves, especially at a time when concerns over violent crime are one of the most important issues on the minds of voters. House Democrats (well, all but five of them) voted to make it a federal crime to buy, sell, or transfer the most commonly-sold rifle in the country, but they won’t approve federal funding to put more police on the streets at a time when departments across the country are seeing major shortfalls in staffing.

  • Last year, the Massachusetts State Police, already facing staffing shortages and expecting to lose as many as 250 members in 2021, moved nearly four dozen troopers who typically investigate crimes like homicides and arson to street patrol, AP reported.
  • The Kansas City Police Department is operating with 100 fewer non-law enforcement roles filled — including 911 dispatchers — and 200 fewer officers, CNN reported. Among other effects, the result has meant longer wait times at 911 call centers.
  • Los Angeles, operating with more than 650 fewer officers than before the pandemic, has “downsized its human trafficking, narcotics and gun details,” closed its animal cruelty unit, and decreased its homelessness outreach teams by 80%, AP reported.
  • In Seattle, staffing shortages meant fewer detectives investigating sexual assaults. In June, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced that the police department would move more detectives and support staff from other units to meet the challenge, but that the department still has only 134 detectives compared to 234 in 2019.

Don’t underestimate the potency of policing as an issue in the midterms. Ilhan Omar’s bid for re-election was nearly undone in her primary last night on the back of her support for defunding police, with Democrats like Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey endorsing her opponent over the issue.

Omar’s close call came after her critics in the party mobilized against her, arguing that Samuels, who had campaigned against a 2021 ballot measure that would have disbanded and replaced the Minneapolis Police Department, would better represent the heavily Democratic district. That ballot measure sprung out of the police reform movement that grew after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — a movement that has been blamed by some Democrats for alienating suburban voters.

“We need partners across levels of government who prioritize teamwork, collaboration, and a seriousness of approach to match the seriousness of the issues we face,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement last week, announcing his support for Samuels.

If defunding the police doesn’t play well in a D+30 district like Omar’s, you can imagine how the Democrats’ refusal to vote for local law enforcement grants is going to go over battleground districts across the country.

Now, Pelosi still has time to twist the arms of progressives like Jayapal and get the funding bill passed before the midterms, but for the moment it looks like the bill has stalled. Even if it begins to move forward, Democrats have already given Republicans a talking point that they can use between now and Election Day: the left would rather target the guns owned by tens of millions of law-abiding Americans than target violent criminals by putting more police on the streets. Only one of those things has been too “divisive” to call up for a vote, and it isn’t the bill attacking and infringing on our Second Amendment rights.