Mar 4, 2021 by Alex Gault

WASHINGTON — Rep. Elise M. Stefanik on Wednesday voted against the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, saying it would put law-abiding police officers at risk.

The legislation, which passed 220-212, largely along party lines, bans police use of neck restraints and ends “no knock” warrants for federal drug cases. It also reforms the legal concept of qualified immunity, which is a defense available for public officials which protects them from civil lawsuits when they are accused of wrongdoing in their official capacity.

The bill was named in honor of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed last year after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

In a statement explaining her vote, Rep. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said the qualified immunity reforms were of particular concern to her.

“The Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act poses a grave danger to law-abiding police officers as it would eliminate qualified immunity protections, lower the standard for federal civil rights lawsuits, and limit access to necessary equipment during emergencies and natural disasters,” she said.

A version of this bill passed the House of Representatives last year, but was stalled by the GOP-controlled Senate. Rep. Stefanik voted against that bill as well.

Rep. Stefanik said House Democrats “rushed” the bill to a vote without taking input from across the aisle, from experts or reviewing any significant data on policing.

She instead supports a bill she co-sponsored alongside Sen. Tim E. Scott, R-S.C., which would incentivize police departments to use body cameras and ban chokeholds by withholding federal grants. That legislation does not amend qualified immunity rules. That bill was blocked by Senate Democrats last year, who said it didn’t do enough to address the problems facing American law enforcement.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will now move into the Senate, where it will need at least 10 Republican votes to pass. President Joseph R. Biden has thrown his support behind the bill, but its face remains to be seen.

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