Law enforcement
Credit: Photo of social justice demonstrators by Ben Von Klemperer; photo of police supporters by Kristi Blokhin


Voting 289 for and 133 against, the House on May 26, 2023, passed a bill (HR 467) that would increase regulation of compounds used in making fentanyl in order to give law enforcement more tools and a lower standard of evidence for prosecuting traffickers. The bill would permanently classify precursors to fentanyl in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, where they are now temporarily placed. Of the CSA’s several categories of dangerous substances, Schedule I, the most severe, is reserved for substances highly subject to abuse with no medical value. Prison terms are longest for Schedule I convictions, and the bill would continue mandatory minimum sentences. Schedule II substances have accepted medical use along with a high potential for abuse. The bill does not change fentanyl’s classification as a Schedule II drug.

Floor Debate, Pro & Con:

Supporter Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said: “Illicit drug manufacturers are diverting precursor chemicals from some of China’s 160,000 chemical plants and shipping them to Mexico, where cartels are producing mass quantities of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances….We must make sure that law enforcement has the permanent tools that they need to seize these extremely lethal poisons….Without [the bill], drug traffickers being sourced from China will be emboldened to push deadlier and deadlier drugs across the border.”

Opponent Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif., said the bill “doesn’t address the humanitarian crisis we are facing at our southern border. It doesn’t address the epidemic of substance abuse….The majority of people who are dying from fentanyl are dying because they are taking it illegally. They are buying and searching for illicit drugs. It is not about prosecution….The issue is substance abuse. That is what we should be addressing …rather than continuing to scapegoat the same people that you have scapegoated for years and years to no end.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where its prospects were uncertain.


Voting 230 for and 200 against, the House on May 11, 2023, passed a bill (HR 1163) that would give states more tools for collecting accidental or fraudulently obtained overpayments of unemployment insurance during the Covid 19 pandemic. Improper payments totaled $164 billion to $191 billion, according to the Department of Labor. In part, the bill targets the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which issued jobless checks to individuals who lost work because of Covid but did not qualify for regular state-federal unemployment insurance. Many overpayments were the result of antiquated systems at state agencies overwhelmed by a surge of claims filed by crime syndicates as well as legitimate applicants. The bill allows states to use 25 percent of the overpayments they collect to upgrade their systems. The bill would extend from five to 10 years the statute of limitations for bringing federal criminal charges against those who fraudulently collected unemployment benefits.

Floor Debate, Pro & Con:

Supporter Jason Smith, R-Mo., said: “Criminal organizations and foreign fraudsters exploited the pandemic to steal…hundreds of billions in payments intended to keep workers afloat…. These are stolen tax dollars, which makes every person in America a victim of this fraud. Today’s vote is an important step toward ending suffering and delivering accountability.”

Opponent Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif., said the bill “would allow states to send surprise bills to workers for unemployment benefits overcompensation paid to them during the pandemic for as long as 10 years after the overpayment was issued. Is it the job of the American people to keep the receipts of 10 years past of UI payments so that they don’t go to jail? People who applied for these benefits and were overpaid did not know they had been overpaid. These were the result of a government mistake.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where its prospects were uncertain.


The House on April 19, 2023, voted to repeal a District of Columbia law enacted in 2022 to curb officer misconduct and prevent the use of excessive force by the city’s Metropolitan Police Department. The Republican-sponsored resolution of disapproval (HJ Res 42) was adopted by a tally of 229 for and 189 against. Under the 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act, the federal territory has limited authority to run its own affairs but must receive congressional approval of laws such as this one passed by the city council.

In part, the new policing law bans the use of extreme neck restraints including chokeholds, requires body-camera footage to be released to the public and prohibits the hiring of officers convicted of crimes or found to have engaged in official misconduct in other employment. The law empowers the police chief to discipline or remove officers found guilty of misconduct on the job or breaking laws while off duty, taking that authority away from more lenient arbitration panels established by collective bargaining with the police union.

Floor Debate, Pro & Con:

Sponsor Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said repeal was “essential to both increase public safety and combat rising crime in our nation’s capital city. For far too long, Washington, D.C., which is supposed to represent a beacon of freedom, patriotism and prosperity for all America, has been overrun by violent criminals. As millions of people visit D.C. every year, it is imperative that [the city] is safe for all residents and visitors. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case.”

Opponent Jamie Raskin, D-Md., responded to Clyde by saying “the only time I have seen an institution overrun by violent criminals was here in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, an event that [Clyde] described as a tourist visit and has consistently likened to a tourist visit. I don’t know that he is going to be the best and most reliable witness for determining when an institution is being overrun by violent criminals.”

A yes vote was to send the resolution of disapproval to the Senate, where its prospects were uncertain. President Biden said he will veto the measure if it reaches his desk.


Voting 244 for and 172 against, the House on March 17, 2021, approved a five-year extension of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which uses federal grants and laws to reduce crimes directed primarily at women. In part, the bill (HR 1620) would prohibit persons convicted of domestic abuse, misdemeanor stalking or dating violence from possessing firearms; ensure that those losing work because of domestic violence qualify for unemployment benefits; require shelters to admit transgender individuals in their acquired sex; strengthen tribal jurisdiction over outsiders charged with committing crimes on reservations; improve the care of children exposed to domestic violence; expand rape prevention and education programs; and step up efforts to address sexual violence on campuses.

Floor Debate, Pro & Con:

Supporter Lucy McBath, D-Ga., said domestic violence is “especially deadly when it occurs in the household with a gun….Closing the `boyfriend loophole’ is a critical step to prevent abusers from obtaining a weapon that will likely be used to escalate abuse….”

Opponent Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said the bill would “force women’s domestic-violence shelters to take in men who identify as women, strip away protections for religious organizations and eliminate Second Amendment rights without due process.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where no vote has occurred.


Voting 177 for and 249 against, the House on March 17, 2021, defeated a GOP-backed version of the Violence Against Women Act that was less extensive than the Democratic-sponsored version later passed by the House (HR 1620, above). The amendment sought to reauthorize the law for one year at existing funding levels without added provisions, rather than for five years with increased funding and a greatly expanded scope. The Republican version would have trimmed or denied funding for programs designed to house victims of domestic violence; reduce the incidence of rape; curb violence against the LGBTQ community; protect indigenous women on tribal lands; curb dating and stalking violence; train judicial personnel to better deal with child abuse; and improve criminal-justice responses to gender-based violence.

Floor Debate, Pro & Con:

Sponsor Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said: “My amendment is simple. It provides a clean extension of the Violence Again Women Act programs for the upcoming fiscal year without the controversial provisions added by Speaker Pelosi.”

Opponent Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, called the amendment “shameful” and “a bait-and-switch that is fatally flawed and makes no meaningful improvements” to the underlying bill.

A yes vote was to adopt the GOP-backed amendment.


The House on March 3, 2021, passed, 220 for and 212 against, a bill (HR 1280) that would set federal rules and guidelines for policing practices at all levels of government. In addition to addressing misconduct by federal officers, the bill would use the high levels of police funding in federal programs to induce state and local reforms. Named the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the bill would:

  • Prohibit federal police from using chokeholds or other applications of pressure on the carotid arteries, throats or windpipes of persons being restrained, and use federal financial incentives to encourage state and local police to do the same; the use of chokeholds based on race would be defined as a civil rights violation;
  • Eliminate the “qualified immunity” defense from federal and non-federal civil litigation in which a police officer is sued for damages based on misconduct including excessive use of force;
  • Make lynching a federal crime and prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, while using federal funding to induce states and localities to do the same;
  • Give the Department of Justice subpoena power for investigating discriminatory and brutal patterns and practices by local departments, and fund efforts by state attorneys general to investigate troubled departments;
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry of officers fired by local departments for reasons including excessive use of force;
  • Prohibit racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by federal and nonfederal law enforcement; aggrieved individuals could bring civil actions for declaratory or injunctive relief;
  • Require police to justify use of force on grounds it was “necessary” rather than merely “reasonable,” and require state and local police to report use-of-force data by race, sex, disability, religion and age to a Department of Justice database;
  • Lower the criminal-intent standard of evidence in police misconduct prosecutions under federal law from “willful” to “reckless”;
  • Require uniformed federal police to wear body cameras and marked federal police cars to mount dashboard cameras, while giving state and local departments financial incentives to do the same;
  • Fund local task forces to develop practices based on community policing rather than the use of force;
  • Limit the Pentagon’s transfer of combat-level equipment to state and local police;
  • Make it a crime for a federal officer to engage in sex, even if consensual, with an individual under arrest or in custody and use financial incentives to encourage states to enact the same prohibition.

Floor Debate, Pro & Con:

Supporter Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., said the purpose of the bill “is not to second guess officers who act in good faith [but] to hold liable officers who repeatedly abuse their power and who rarely, if ever, face consequences for their repeat abuses. If you are a good officer, you have nothing to fear. But if you are a bad officer, you have accountability to fear….”

Opponent Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., said the bill “aims to cripple or degrade our law enforcement” and would “diminish public safety and prevent…officers from serving and protecting our communities, all while trying to hold them personally liable. The brave men and women who put on the uniform every day deserve better.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where no vote has occurred.