Fox News: House Democrats push measure to invest in local police departments amid stall from leadership
House Democrats appear at odds over a bipartisan measure introduced earlier this year that would provide investments in local police departments across America to ensure officers have the resources needed to keep them and their communities safe.
Led by New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Florida Republican Rep. John Rutherford, the Invest to Protect Act would provide small police departments with several investments in safety, de-escalation and domestic violence response training. The bill would also provide investments in body cameras, mental health resources and recruiting efforts.
The House Problem Solvers Caucus and several organizations that offer support for law enforcement, including the National Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations, endorse the measure. It has not been scheduled for a vote in the House.
Speaking to Fox News Digital, Gottheimer said the measure is "all about investing in local law enforcement for departments that are 200 or fewer" and would help departments struggling to afford equipment, training and other resources.
"I believe it's critically important we invest in law enforcement, we get their backs just like they get ours everyday and we make sure we enforce the laws on the books and protect our communities," Gottheimer said.
Asked whether he believes Democratic leadership has stalled the bill's advancement over fear of how progressive Democrats would respond, Gottheimer reiterated the bipartisan energy behind the legislation. He said talk about defunding police departments among progressives "makes no sense" to him.
"I'd leave it to my leadership to comment on the reasons why they haven't brought this to the floor yet," Gottheimer said. "We wanna get common-sense work done. You've got Democrats and Republicans who want action. There's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't bring this to the floor. It will pass. Our country will be safer for it.
"We need to fund, not defund, local law enforcement," he added. "Cutting the bone only weakens the profession and pushes good people out. Any talk about doing anything except investing in law enforcement makes no sense to me. So we need to invest."
Nevada Democrat Rep. Susie Lee, a co-sponsor of the bill, also spoke with Fox News Digital about the measure and vowed to continue pushing Democratic leadership in the House to get the measure in front of a committee and then to the full House for a vote.
"This is really leveling the playing field so that smaller departments have opportunities to get these types of grant funding to help them with training and get the resources they need," Lee said.
Echoing Gottheimer, Lee suggested Democratic leadership in the House could speak for itself on why the bill has not been taken up.
"This is a bipartisan, bicameral bill [with] 55 co-sponsors — 17 Republicans — and we're going to continue to press our leadership to make sure we get a vote on this bill," Lee said. "It's not to say that we have not invested in police departments. … This is just making sure that we can get these types of resources out to these smaller departments.
"I can't speak for leadership," she added. "All I know is that when you have a piece of legislation like this that is broadly supported, then you know you're gonna get support across the aisle. … I continue to press our leadership to find solutions to issues in this country that require us to work together with the other side of the aisle."
Lee said she has written "plenty of letters" and spoken to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., about putting the measure before a committee so that it can receive a vote by the House. So far, it appears she has had no luck.
Several of the legislation's co-sponsors told Fox News Digital that investments in police departments across the country is of paramount importance.
"I do not support the notion of ‘defunding’ the police," said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. "Everyone American has a right to be safe in their community. In Congress, I have worked to support local law enforcement to ensure they have the resources to hire and train police officers. The Invest to Protect Act would help provide smaller police departments with less than 200 officers the resources they need to keep our neighborhoods safe."
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., described the "remarkable occurrence" of bipartisanship among those in Congress to support the bill and said that "investing in attracting the very best and brightest of Americans to pursue law enforcement — training them, equipping them in a way that allows them to serve their communities with dignity, principle and integrity — is exactly what we should be doing.
"Representation begins with listening, and that’s what we're doing," Phillips added. "I, like many of colleagues, do ride-alongs with police regularly. I visit with my police chiefs. I’m listening to my community express their fears about rising crime. So how could we draw any conclusion other than it’s time to invest, and ‘investing in protecting,' by definition, means we expect a return. And the return is public safety for urban, suburban and rural Americans."
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., said, "The Invest to Protect Act recognizes that our smaller police departments might not have the personnel to compete with these big-city departments by creating a dedicated grant program for them, as well as cutting red tape to ensure our officers are focused on their training and their beat instead of on their paperwork.
"Our police departments need the funding and tools necessary to recruit, train and retain high-quality officers, and I backed this bipartisan legislation in the House to ensure they get those resources."
Echoing the support for the legislation from her colleagues, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., said she is constantly reminded of the sacrifice officers make to keep communities in America safe and urged House leadership to bring the measure forward.
"When I enter my mother-in-law’s home, I see the triangle shadow box of the American flag that draped the coffin of her father, a chief of police in the Chicago area," Houlahan reflected. "It’s a reminder of the service of our brave law enforcement officers and the sacrifices they make to keep our communities safe. In turn, it’s our responsibility to ensure they have the resources to serve. That’s why I was proud to stand with so many Republicans and Democrats in support of the Invest to Protect Act.
"At a time when Washington can be so divided, it’s heartening to see members of both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate stand together with one voice: We support our police," she added. "I join them all in urging House leadership to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote so we can help rural and small police departments like the ones in my community better compete for resources and training, allowing them to manage a growing public mental health crisis, the opioid epidemic and so much more."
Gottheimer and other co-sponsors of the House measure held a press conference earlier this week outside the Capitol, urging leadership to take action on the bill in an effort to better protect American communities.
A bipartisan companion piece to the legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in March. That measure has also received bipartisan support.