With the one year anniversary of the tragic and wholly unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands (well, knee) of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin falling today, President Biden looks to mark that harrowing day for the Floyd family by hosting them at the White House. However, although President Biden plans to host the family on May 25 to commemorate the anniversary of Floyd’s death, the other plan he had laid out doesn’t look likely to come to fruition on that same day.
Biden had set this day as his goal during his joint address to Congress in April to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, legislation that includes provisions to set up a national registry of police misconduct, a ban on racial and religious profiling by law enforcement and overhaul qualified immunity. However, Biden’s initial May 25 deadline for passing this bipartisan police reform bill is now an impossibility considering that the House entering a work period on Thursday and not returning to Washington until June.
And although the Democrat-led chamber had passed the measure in March, it was sadly never passed by the Senate. One of the major stumbling blocks that remained was Section 242, the federal law that sets the standard for criminally prosecuting police and many progressive Democrats have expressed their concerns about any policing legislation not containing such things as Section 242 and an overhaul of qualified immunity, the legal principle that grants government officials performing discretionary functions immunity from civil suits unless the plaintiff shows that the official violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known”.
Despite the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act languishing in legislative limbo at the moment and not being passed on the day Biden had hoped, he will still be hosting the Floyd family at the White House. As Press secretary Jen Psaki put it on Friday “it was a moment that impacted millions of Americans and certainly the President on a personal level.” This is certainly not the first time the president has spoken to the family. first met with the Floyd family in June 2020 when he traveled to Houston to offer condolences ahead of George Floyd’s funeral. He also had a conversation last month with George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing.
This is a troubling time for race relations in the US, more so than usual, and seeing the president not only welcome the family of the most high profile police killing of a black man, but the seriousness in which he is taking the issue by pushing for some serious police reforms means that he meant what he said in his victory speech when he pledged to be a president “who does not seek to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states or blue states, who only sees the United States.” Only time will tell.