WASHINGTON — A local police funding bill won unanimous support from Minnesota lawmakers in the U.S. House on Thursday, even as political tension around public safety remains sharply evident on Capitol Hill.
"Despite reports of its demise, bipartisanship is still alive," Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips texted shortly after passage of the $300 million legislation.
The package, which includes grant funding for departments with fewer than 125 law enforcement officers, passed on a 360-64 vote.
Some Democrats, including Phillips and Rep. Angie Craig, have embraced law enforcement as the party tries to maintain its control of Congress. But the bill's success required negotiations with House progressives, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, their Minnesota colleague.
"Progressives can also be bipartisan," said Omar, who helped negotiate differences between progressive and moderate factions that had cast doubts about final passage of the legislation.
"Many of us have been calling for mental health unit responses. We're getting that today," Omar told reporters after Democrats barely overcame a procedural hurdle necessary to advance the funding legislation and additional related public safety bills.
"Many of us have been talking about a lot of the trauma that victims of violence feel and the need to address that. We're getting that today. Many of us have been talking about accountability, data collection, training for police officers. We're getting that today."
Though most GOP members got on board with the money for law enforcement, the scorn between Republicans and Democrats on law enforcement continued.
"This is a last-ditch effort for them to act like they are not deeply out of touch with the country, coming just in time to see the results from election polling," Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said of Democrats during a floor speech.
The House also passed related bills dealing with mental health and public safety. Minnesota lawmakers split along party lines on two of them, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans opposed.
But every member of Minnesota's delegation signed off on another grant bill dealing with homicides and non-fatal shootings.
The House bills still need Senate approval before becoming law.
"I voted in support of these bills because I believe that, in order for law enforcement to do their job effectively, they need properly targeted resources," Minnesota Republican Rep. Brad Finstad said in a statement after voting for two of the measures.
"These bills give them the ability to recruit, hire, train and retain qualified officers to investigate violent crime, as well as provide adequate support for victims, survivors and their families."
The latest movement on policing and public safety bills comes about a year after lawmakers failed to reach a bipartisan deal on police reform.
House Democrats had earlier responded to the death of George Floyd in 2020 by passing a sprawling police reform package. That legislation attempted to limit the controversial practice known as qualified immunity, which can protect law enforcement officers against civil lawsuits.
Republicans strongly opposed that effort. With crime and public safety animating campaigns and voters alike this election season, Phillips and Craig have distanced themselves from the past attempts to reform qualified immunity.
The funding approved Thursday "is going to allow us to fund a number of our small- to medium-size departments throughout the Second District and give them another opportunity for a grant program," Craig said.
"Law enforcement has been woefully underfunded when it comes to building a pipeline of new officers, and so this is an opportunity to really step up and change that."
But it's unlikely the bills will alter the partisan tenor around public safety and law enforcement carrying into this fall's campaign season.
"Republicans don't need election year polling to stand with law enforcement," said GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, a former Duluth police officer.