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


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.