AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
After House Democrats nearly lost their majority in 2020 thanks in large part to their association with the “Defund the Police” movement, the party has once again punted on police funding legislation less than three months ahead of an election in which public safety looks to be a top concern for voters. Yet remarkably, House Republicans do not appear to be seizing the political opportunity.
In a letter this past June, 30 vulnerable incumbent House Democrats urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team to bring forward several pieces of legislation that would increase funding for law enforcement “no later than when Congress returns from the July 4 district work period.” As violent crime continued to run rampant throughout the country, this group of Democrats pleaded with Pelosi to give them “the opportunity to show our constituents that we are addressing crime in our communities.”
But following passage of Democrats’ reconciliation plan last Friday, the prospects for passing any sort of funding for law enforcement ahead of November 8 look slim at best. As members turn their full attention to their re-election contests, it is increasingly unlikely that any major legislation – particularly on topics that divide Democrats like support for police – will pass before Election Day.
Although it initially appeared in mid-July as if there may be some momentum to pass the police funding bills, which would have provided expanded access to federal dollars for local police departments to hire officers and update training and equipment, it was quickly snuffed out by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), who threatened to vote against the legislation if Pelosi brought it to the floor. While the CPC has mostly eschewed any direct mention of the “Defund the Police” movement in recent months (with notable exceptions such as Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush) they have nonetheless remained opposed to any sort of increased funding for law enforcement after many left-wing city governments gutted their police departments in 2020 and 2021.
Following the Senate’s passage of the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) earlier this month, there was renewed optimism that the House could take up the issue when it returned from August recess to pass the IRA. However, the CPC and a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus killed those hopes once again, with Pelosi announcing in a letter to House Democrats that “our focus must remain on passing the IRA, as conversations continue on finding consensus for a robust public safety package.” In an interview ahead of the IRA vote, CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said that increasing funding for law enforcement “would be a very, very divisive thing to do” and would amount to “snatch[ing] defeat out of the jaws of victory.”
Those comments are unlikely to sit well with endangered incumbents like Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, two organizers of the June letter. Spanberger was one of the most vocal critics of Democrats’ support for the “Defund the Police” movement following the 2020 election, and has worked to boost her law and order bona fides ahead of a tough re-election battle against former law enforcement officer Yesli Vega. (It should be noted, however, that Spanberger and other self-described pro-police Democrats reportedly accepted campaign contributions from an anti-police super PAC.)
Thus far, however, neither Pelosi nor any Democrat has publicly pushed back on Jayapal’s comments – further making clear who wields the most influence in today’s Democratic Party. Moreover, while Pelosi and President Joe Biden have stated on several occasions that they want to “fund the police,” Democrats will now likely face voters after two years of unified control of government without having passed even a single measure directly aimed at boosting law enforcement funding – even as they spend hundreds of billions of dollars on expanding the IRS and instituting onerous new environmental regulations.
But despite this golden opportunity, Republicans have largely failed to press the issue. While city officials and far-left prosecutors have rightly borne plenty of criticism over rising crime, congressional Democrats have mostly escaped scrutiny for their failure to provide badly-needed resources to local police departments.
Meanwhile, crime has continued to spike in most major cities as police departments have struggled to retain officers. In Portland, Oregon, the homicide rate has surged more than 200% since 2019 even as the city’s police department has more than 100 officer vacancies. Los Angeles is short 650 officers. In New York, major crimes are up 37% this year, while the NYPD has also seen major staffing shortages. As crime increases in cities, it’s also leaking over into the suburbs and even rural communities – key areas Democrats will have to do well in if they hope to retain their majorities.
Barring an unexpected turn of events, it looks as if Democrats’ attempted about-face on crime may have already fizzled out. For a party that is already perceived as too radical and out of touch with the concerns of ordinary voters, that’s bad news for them just a few weeks ahead of when voters will head to the polls.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now