Democratic leaders in the House backed off of an effort to pair an assault weapons ban with a vote to boost federal funding for police after signs that the policing proposal had shaky support in the party.
“Since we talked about a security package, though, we’ve been flooded with so many bills that people have. So, we need to have the bandwidth to deal with all of them,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference Friday.
She added that the plan is to vote to support “our men and women in law enforcement with accountability to the floor in the second week of August when we come back.”
The vote on reinstating a federal assault weapons ban, a policy that lapsed in 2004, was still set to occur Friday afternoon. Pelosi expressed confidence Democrats would win that vote.
The backtracking on the crime bill, though, came after objections were raised within the key Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), whose leader, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Pelosi had signed off on a bill along with Democratic moderates Rep. Josh Gottheimer (New Jersey) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (Virginia).
Two top aides to CBC members told HuffPost they were disappointed about the proposal. They said members questioned if it went far enough with accountability measures in exchange for additional funding for the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.
“Truly, the Congressional Black Caucus struck a deal that was not in line with what the civil rights community wanted to do, and that was not in line with what many, many, many members of their caucus wanted,” a senior aide told HuffPost.
The episode illustrates the continuing tension within the Democratic caucus as it tries to get legislative wins ahead of a harsh midterm election environment and where members in different districts face various political needs. Adding to that problem is the razor-thin margin by which Democrats currently hold power in the House.
“We feel very proud of the compromises that were made with much discussion on the other side of the aisle and people outside”
– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Because the assault weapons ban and police funding proposals were to be last-minute additions to Friday’s vote schedule, they required clearing a procedural vote, which Democratic progressives threatened to derail, before a vote on passage. That, in turn, led to the uncommon sight of Pelosi openly urging members to vote yes on what otherwise would be a humdrum procedural tally to allow the gun ban to the floor, while work continued on the policing package.
Despite the goings-on, Pelosi was optimistic about the funding proposal. She also defended it from criticism from the right that the money would not be readily available to police departments because it would be conditional on accountability provisions.
“It’s real police funding. It’s police funding with accountability,” she said. “We feel very proud of the compromises that were made with much discussion on the other side of the aisle and people outside.”