May 25 marks one year since the death of George Floyd led to nationwide protests over racial injustice. The recent conviction of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s killing and continued deadly shootings at the hands of law enforcement have intensified the calls for police reform. Washington Post opinions writer Jonathan Capehart speaks with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the lead author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, about the current bipartisan negotiations in Congress and where we are as a country one year after Floyd’s death.

Highlights

Rep. Karen Bass said she remains optimistic about negotiations despite missing a deadline imposed by President Biden of the anniversary of George Floyd’s death. “Honestly, [...] I think we just didn’t have enough time. You know, when you do something as significant as this, it involves so many different stakeholders, not just members of the Senate and members of the House. We had been working for months with the Problem Solvers Caucus, with Josh Gottheimer and Brian Fitzpatrick over here in the House, and then also in the Senate. I think we just literally did not have enough time. But, I don’t think it’s months away. I think we will be able to get it across the finish line.” (Washington Post Live)
The California Congresswoman said passing qualified immunity through a separate bill makes “no sense” to her. “Qualified immunity is essential to be in the bill. But as I mentioned, we are looking at the entire bill, all aspects of it, and it is a comprehensive bill, all of it needs to happen. But even when President Biden signs the bill, as I said, there is still so much more that needs to be done. The idea that we would come back and have a bill on qualified immunity makes no sense to me.” (Washington Post Live)
Rep. Bass said she’d like the Biden administration to keep assessing what police reforms are needed. “The White House has been very supportive. They have not been directly involved in negotiations and believe that we can manage it on our own and I believe that that’s the case. What I would like to see President Biden do after he signs the bill is to push to make sure the bill is fully implemented, but then to say ‘Okay now, what’s next? What more do we need to do?’ I think that President Obama and Vice President Biden laid a great road map with the 21st Century Commission on Policing. I’d like to see them convene another commission to 1. Look back at those recommendations… but also to say what more needs to be done?” (Washington Post Live)
Rep. Bass said Sen. Tim Scott is negotiating in good faith, and had recently highlighted his own personal experiences being stopped by a Capitol Police officer who did not recognize him. “Senator Scott faces particular challenges, but I don’t for one minute believe that he is not negotiating in good faith.” She went on to say, “Senator Scott has his own history dealing with police just like everyone that I know does… And at the end of the day, as Senator Scott says, “I’m conservative, I’m a Republican, but I’m a black man and I’ve been stopped numerous times.’ He was stopped recently, here, near the capitol, wearing his Senate pin, and he was pulled over and asked to show his driver’s license.” (Washington Post Live)

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.)

Provided by office of Rep. Karen Bass

Congressmember Karen Bass was re-elected to her sixth term representing the 37th Congressional District in November 2020. Congressmember Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights. She also serves on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, where she is active in working to craft sound criminal justice reform policies.

Congressmember Bass served as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 and 2020. During her tenure, the Congressional Black Caucus worked with the Congressional Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native American Caucuses to demand a targeted response to the COVID-19 pandemic and initiate a national needs assessment for communities of color. She also introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act - the most transformative piece of policing legislation to ever pass in a chamber of Congress. (You can read more about what the Congressional Black Caucus accomplished under her chairship here.)

Congressmember Bass has served on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations for as long as she's served in Congress. As Chair of the Subcommittee, Congressmember Bass has acted to build coalitions and support economic growth and partnerships with the African continent, with a goal to transform how the United States engages with African nations and to promote the many opportunities to expand trade and economic growth between America and African nations. In 2015, Congressmember Bass acted swiftly during her first term to bring legislators, advocacy groups and international leaders together to extend the third country fabric provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The provision supports stability, development, and economic growth of sub-Saharan African countries by protecting jobs in the apparel sector and providing some of the best markets for American businesses to sell their goods and services. Congressmember Bass has traveled to the continent upwards of 30 times and continues to push to increase the diversity among our diplomatic corps serving there.

Congressmember Bass has also served on the Judiciary Committee since 2012. Her work on this committee includes passing sweeping criminal justice reforms including the First Step Act and reforms to our prison system with an eye on how women are treated in prisons. Congressmember Bass also helped pass the Equality Act of 2020, which would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment and housing. She also serves on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet where she works on protections of intellectual property right infringements that threaten the economic health of the 37th District. On this committee, Congressmember Bass also voted to impeach the 45th President of the United States.

Upon arriving in Congress, Chairwoman Bass founded the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. The caucus has a membership of more than 150 Members of Congress who are dedicated to improving the child welfare system and has successfully promoted passage of many key policies aimed at improving the nation’s foster care system.

Prior to her election to Congress, Chairwoman Bass served in the California State Assembly, where in 2008, she made history by becoming the first-ever African-American woman in U.S. history to serve as Speaker of any state legislature. During her tenure as Speaker, California endured its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Under her leadership, the State Assembly came together to address the financial emergency with legislation to help Californians affected by the economic crisis. For her action, she was one of four legislative leaders awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2010.

In the early 1990s, she convened a small group of community organizers, both African-American and Latino, and founded Community Coalition, known locally as CoCo. CoCo's mission is to help transform the social and economic conditions in South Los Angeles that foster addiction, crime, violence and poverty by building a community institution that involves thousands in creating, influencing and changing public policy. CoCo has become a nationally known community institution that has successfully changed many areas of public policy and trained a new generation of leaders.

Congressmember Bass grew up in the Venice/Fairfax area of Los Angeles, which is the same area she represents today in Congress. She is a graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills, the University of Southern California’s School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program, and the USC Masters Program in Social Work. She worked as a Physician Assistant and as a clinical instructor at the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.

Congressmember Bass had one daughter, Emilia Bass-Lechuga and son-in-law Michael Wright. She continues to be inspired by Emilia and Michael’s passion for life. Emilia planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps working for social change. Congressmember Bass also has four step children.