A broad policy reform bill that prohibits chokeholds and combats racial discrimination passed the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, just five days before a white officer charged with the murder of African-American George Floyd goes on trial. Floyd, 46, died last May 25 when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin jammed his knee against the victim's neck for more than eight minutes, killing him.
The horrific killing was captured on camera and triggered nationwide demonstrations. Last year, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but it was defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate. With President Joe Biden in office since January and a Democratic-controlled Senate, the bill was reintroduced last week and approved on a party-line vote of 220 to 212 on Wednesday.
Just one Republican voted in favor of the bill, while two Democrats voted against it. Before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "Nearly a year ago, George Floyd whispered his last words, 'I can't breathe,' and sparked a national reckoning on racial inequality and police violence in America." The For the People Act will extend no-excuse voting by mail, make voter registration compulsory, prohibit partisan redistricting, and enforce new restrictions on so-called dark money campaign contributions.
The bill is largely similar to one passed by the House two years ago. This one is especially significant given Republican-controlled state legislatures' attempts to restrict voting rights in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election loss and his frequent false allegations of election fraud.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the bill an "unprecedented power grab" by Democrats to "shift a temporary majority into permanent hegemony."