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George Floyd's Brother Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee


Police reform and racial profiling were front and center on Capitol Hill today. The House Judiciary Committee heard from a dozen witnesses. Among them, Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody last month.


PHILONISE FLOYD: George wasn't hurting anyone that day. He didn't deserve to die over $20. I'm asking you, is that what a black man is worth, $20? This is 2020. Enough is enough.

KELLY: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales was following that hearing. She is here with us now.

Hey, Claudia.


KELLY: You know, you have watched so many congressional hearings unfold. It sounds like today's was just exceptionally emotional. Talk about the testimony and how members responded.

GRISALES: Yes, it was indeed. We heard from Philonise, as we heard from the top there. He traveled to the Capitol today to testify in person the day after his brother's funeral in Houston. It was a difficult moment during the hearing as he recounted the moment of watching his brother George die. And lawmakers listened intently. Many shared their condolences, and they also shared their hopes for a way forward. There was also a lot of bipartisan sentiment that something needs to be done, but there wasn't a lot of specifics on what that could look like.

The panel of witnesses itself, very diverse. We heard from a Houston police chief, justice activists. Also, those folks were pushing for a new proposal by Democrats to reform the policing system. And we heard from Republican witnesses, including a Fox News commentator who spoke against this idea of defunding the police.

KELLY: Right. This idea over defunding the police and what that would mean and how it would work, that seems to be the big divide, you know, that's dominating the national conversation right now. How did that play out in today's hearing?

GRISALES: Yes. We've seen Republicans quickly seize on this and try and pin it on Democrats, that this is their angle. This is what they want to do. And some of the witnesses they invited to the hearing today warned it would be a horrible plan. And one even warned there would be chaos in the streets. But there's lots of confusion on what the term even means. Does it mean completely depleting a community's spending for policing or diverting some of those funds to community efforts like education or mental health assistance? And while there are some Democrats talking about it, the broad consensus is that it's not in their police reform bill, and they aren't onboard with it either.

KELLY: So what is the next step?

GRISALES: So Democrats say in the coming days they'll be marking up the bill, that is getting it ready for House floor debate and potential passage. And then they'll be voting on the plan probably by month's end. It's still unclear if Republicans will support it. But the conversation has really shifted over recent days with Republicans who haven't been willing to support police reform in the past. Here's Representative Matt Gaetz. He's a Florida Republican.


MATT GAETZ: I do think there is not a legitimate defense of chokeholds or lynching or bad cops that get shuttled around, and you will be able to count on Republican cooperation as we hone these ideas and hopefully pass them and get them to the president's desk.

GRISALES: So that's another reminder of how quickly things are moving on Capitol Hill right now.

KELLY: Right. And we have been looking at what the specifics of what Democrats are proposing are. What is the status of Republican proposals of their plan?

GRISALES: Yes. The lead Senate Republican on this measure, Tim Scott of South Carolina, says he's trying to get a bill out there by Friday. Now, some say it wouldn't go as far as the Democrats' bill. For example, it doesn't ban certain police tactics such as chokeholds or no-knock warrants in drug-related cases. But it focuses on training and de-escalation to reduce those practices.

KELLY: Right.

GRISALES: So it's a reminder of how much pressure there is for these lawmakers to get something together. But to do that in an election year, that will be a major hurdle.

KELLY: And, of course, there is the wild card that is the White House. We will wait to see where this all lands.

NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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