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Biden urges Congress to act on policing reform after meeting with George Floyd family

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 25: Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, speaks to reporters while standing with members of the Floyd family prior to a meeting to mark the one anniversary of his death, May 25, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during an arrest after a store clerk suspected he used a counterfeit $20 bill. (Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — A year after George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer, his family returned Tuesday to Washington, D.C., where lawmakers have been attempting to craft a bipartisan bill to overhaul the nation’s policing laws.

Congress failed to act by the anniversary of Floyd’s death — the deadline that President Joe Biden had urged lawmakers to meet.

Instead of signing legislation named for Floyd into law on Tuesday, the president met with Floyd’s family members in a private gathering at the White House.

Afterward, Biden said in a statement that he appreciates the “good-faith efforts” from lawmakers of both parties to pass “a meaningful bill,” and that he hopes they will get a measure to his desk quickly.

“We have to act. We face an inflection point,” said Biden, who met with Floyd’s family shortly after his killing last year and has spoken with them by phone several times. “The battle for the soul of America has been a constant push and pull between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.”

Philonise Floyd, one of George’s brothers, told reporters after the hour-long meeting with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that if the country can make laws to protect the bald eagle, “you can make laws to protect people of color.”

George Floyd was killed at age 46 one year ago, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes outside a convenience store. Floyd’s murder sparked an emotional outcry across the country, with protesters filling the streets as they called for legal changes to policing.

Floyd’s family has found justice in one venue: Chauvin was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

But the broader policy changes they’ve urged have not yet come to fruition.

The Democratic-controlled House has passed a measure known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban the use of chokeholds and make it easier to prosecute officers for wrongdoing. But that bill has not garnered Republican support in the Senate.

Instead, a group of Democrats and Republicans from both chambers has been attempting to hammer out a deal. That group has included Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania, and Pete Stauber, of Minnesota.

After leaving the White House Tuesday afternoon, Floyd’s family members said they were set to meet with two key senators involved in those talks: Sen. Cory Booker, (D-N.J.), and Sen. Tim Scott, (R-S.C.).

One remaining obstacle in negotiations over a policing reform bill is a provision that would limit legal protections known as “qualified immunity” that protect police officers in civil lawsuits.

Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12)

Rep. Alma Adams, (D-N.C.) used Tuesday’s anniversary to press her colleagues to take action for the the Floyd family and others lost to police violence.

“Police killings are not only acts of violence against an individual; they’re an act of violence against a community, and that is why communities across the country have taken a stand over the past year,” said Rep. Adams in a prepared statement. “We must continue to take action by speaking up, by investing in our neighborhoods and families, and by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so that these killings, these attacks on our communities, become a thing of the past. That is how we will best approach justice in an unjust world.”

Earlier in the day, the group of family members — which included Floyd’s daughter, Gianna; her mom, Roxie Washington; and several of his brothers — also gathered with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), on Capitol Hill.

During a news conference, Pelosi noted that the family had been to the Capitol when the House was passing its measure, and she repeated an often-cited quote from Gianna that her father “will change the world.”

“Indeed, that change is coming true,” Pelosi said.

Biden allocates $1B to prepare for hurricane, wildfire season

Damage from Hurricane Florence (Photo: NC Emergency Management)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is doubling the amount of federal funding to help states prepare for natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, he announced Monday.

His administration is directing $1 billion to the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, which sends resources to communities, states, and tribal governments to prepare for extreme weather events.

Those federal dollars will be part of an effort to shift the focus from reactive disaster spending to proactive investments that boost community resilience against weather events, according to the White House.

“We’re going to spare no expense, no effort to keep Americans safe and respond to crises when they arise, and they certainly will,” Biden said Monday as he visited the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The announcement of additional federal aid for disaster preparation comes as the country is preparing for what Biden described as “the busiest time of year” for disasters on both sides of the nation: hurricanes along the Southern and Eastern coasts, and wildfire season in the West.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted another above-average season for hurricanes. The agency has forecast 13 to 20 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean during the current season, and six to 10 are projected to become hurricanes.

Those storms would follow a 2020 season that saw 30 storms that were sizable enough to be named — the most on record for a given year. Just seven of those storms claimed a combined 86 lives and caused $40 billion in damage, Biden said.

“This is not about red states and blue states, you all know that,” Biden told a room of emergency management officials during his FEMA visit. “It’s about having people’s backs in the toughest moments they face.”

The Biden administration also said Monday officials will be tapping NASA resources to better forecast and monitor natural disasters. The agency’s Earth System Observatory will use climate data systems to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities.