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Democrats and Republicans have separate plans on police reform: Here’s where they overlap

Demonstrators continue marching for reform at police departments, though changes in South Florida unlikely
Demonstrators continue marching for reform at police departments, though changes in South Florida unlikely

(CNN) -- Republicans and Democrats may be working on separate tracks right now on policing reform, but there is some overlap, in principle, in what is being proposed on both sides of the Capitol.

It's a rare sign on Capitol Hill that there could be a breakthrough -- albeit a narrow one -- on policing reform legislation. But there is a long ways to go.

There is a lot that can go wrong: Remember gun reform last summer? Infrastructure? The next phase of stimulus? There is so much to disagree about here.

Yes, something has changed drastically over the last week. Even members from rural states cannot deny the protests and peaceful vigils they have seen in their own communities. Last week, most Republicans in the Senate dismissed the idea of a legislative response at all. Now, they have the broad outlines of their own proposal. Things are moving very fast, but there is still a lot of core differences between how Republicans and Democrats see this issue. And, there is no saying where President Donald Trump will land.

As one member put it to CNN on Tuesday, the Senate is in a moment, but it may not stay that way.

What Republicans want

GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina led the conversation on policing reform during the private GOP lunch on Tuesday, but it was a wide-ranging discussion in which members talked about the moment and offered suggestions of their own about how to handle legislating on policing.

Scott will be working alongside four other members to craft the final proposal, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Scott's proposal, which he is hoping to unveil by the end of the week, includes nine key provisions including:

  • Tie federal grant money to a requirement that local police forces report use of force incidents that result in death.
  • Require states to provide data on when they use no-knock search warrants.
  • More money for body camera use and loss of funding if police departments fail to use them.
  • Incentivize police departments to recruit officers that reflect the community makeup.
  • Create a record system where states can share records about a law enforcement officers' records across states.
  • Includes anti-lynching legislation.
  • Creates two commissions, one "on the Social Status of Black Men and boys" and the other to study the criminal justice system.

If those ideas sound familiar, it is because many of the basic principles are shared in the Democratic legislation that was unveiled on Monday. And, many of them are principles that Republicans and Democrats have been working on together for several years when this issue was not front and center.

The biggest difference: Republicans don't believe in mandating that state and local police departments HAVE to adopt a federal policing standard. The GOP view is that you should incentivize those localities to adopt best practices. While on principle, some of the ideas to create a national registry of police behavior are shared between both parties, the biggest difference is how you get there. Republicans want the states to maintain that database and incentivize. Democrats want to require action and that is the starkest difference right now -- and not one that should be glossed over -- in how both parties are seeing this. The Republican proposal also does not explicitly ban choke holds.

"It's my view that the best reforms need to happen at the local level," Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida told CNN. "That is where the community can help drive them as opposed to just one national standard across the board. If there is something we can do here that makes sense, I will certainly look at it."

What to watch Wednesday: Across the Capitol, the House Judiciary Committee will hold its hearing on policing reform with several experts and witnesses including George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd.

The wild card: It's significant that Republicans in the Senate unveiled a preliminary set of principles on policing Tuesday without the explicit blessing of the White House. It speaks to the moment, the relative frustration with the President's handling of the last several weeks' events and the reality that the President cannot always be counted on to be a consistent and firm legislating partner.

"Well, we are on a separate track from the White House. I have been talking with folks in the White House about the track that they're on as well I think there is some synergy between all three tracks to be honest with you, and certainly there's a way for us all to work together," Scott told reporters on Tuesday.

With that said, we saw White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Jared Kushner meeting with Scott after Scott unveiled his proposal to his GOP colleagues. Meadows said the President wants to take action on this "sooner than later."

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