Florida Democratic Representative and former police chief Val Demings denounced Republicans, claiming they were using police officers as “pawns” as they were trying to amend a hate crimes bill, when Ohio Republican and Trump loyalist Jim Jordan interrupted to object, leading to a shouting match.
The crux of their argument was the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act that seeks to address hate crimes against Asian Americans partly by increasing funding for law enforcement to address these offences.
Ms Demings went after her Republican colleagues for introducing an amendment to the bill that would prevent attempts to defund the police. She argued that the amendment was “completely irrelevant” because the legislation didn’t mention defunding the police.
She said: “I served as a law enforcement officer for 27 years. It is a tough job, and good police officers deserve your support.”
She made clear that she distrusted the motives behind the amendment.
She said: “You know, it’s interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it is politically convenient to do so. Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day. They deserve better.”
Mr Jordan interrupted, leading to a shouting match.
Ms Demings banged the table with her hand as she said: “I have the floor, Mr Jordan! Did I strike a nerve? Law enforcement officers deserve better than to be utilised as pawns! And you and your colleagues should be ashamed of yourselves!”
The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, banged his gavel and tried to restore order, telling members that they “must not interrupt someone who has the time” and telling Mr Jordan that he “simply can’t shout out” if he doesn’t agree with what someone else is saying.
“I agree,” Mr Jordan told Mr Nadler.
Ms Demings, a veteran of the Orlando police department, pounced, saying: “Mr Jordan you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about.”
“I know about my motive,” Mr Jordan replied.
Mr Nadler was finally able to get the proceedings back on track, and Ms Demings proceeded to slam Republicans for being hypocrites in relation to the Capitol riot on 6 January. Officers were “fighting for their lives because of the big lie that was told,” Ms Demings said of former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Mr Jordan supported those claims.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle were silent,” Ms Demings said.
“As one person after another person took the microphone and said, ’Go down there and engage in combat,’ ‘fight like hell.’ They used the bicycle racks as deadly missiles against the law enforcement officers that you all say you care about so much,” she added about the pre-riot “Save America” rally where several people spoke to the assembled crowd of Trump supporters, including then-president Trump himself.
The exchange went viral, with over 2.2 million views on Twitter. The shouting match took place on Tuesday, the same day as a Minneapolis jury deemed former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of killing George Floyd in May of last year.
The loud disagreement between the two members also shows the dividing line between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Democrats are pushing a legislative package named after Mr Floyd that seeks to fix law enforcement issues. But the legislation is facing an uphill battle against Republican pushback in the senate.
When asked if she thought the Democrats would be able to get any Republicans on board with the Covid-19 Hate Crime Act, Ms Demings told The Independent: “This legislation is about protecting their Asian-American constituents and stopping hate crimes in their communities. I would certainly expect them to get on board.”
The Independent has reached out to the office of Mr Jordan for comment.
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