Sen. Mitt Romney announced plans on Monday to introduce a bipartisan police reform bill in the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, slamming congressional Democrats for their sweeping legislation that has yet to draw Republican support.
The Utah Republican, who marched with Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington on Sunday, is working with a handful of GOP senators on a bill aimed at garnering broad support from members of both parties and both chambers.
“The fact that it has no Republican sponsors, the fact that there was no effort to contact any of us to have us weigh in on the legislation, suggests it’s designed to be a message piece, as opposed to a real piece of legislation,” Romney said of the Democrats’ proposal.
Romney — who won praise from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike on Monday for joining the nationwide demonstrations — said he had talked with Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African American Republican senator, among other GOP lawmakers.
The plan is in its early stages and has yet to be written into legislative text, but Romney said he’s aiming to create “supervisory” boards to determine whether unnecessary force or racial profiling was employed by a police officer, in addition to new training programs aimed at combating racial bias.
The Democratic proposal includes creating a “National Police Misconduct Registry,” developing a national standard on the use of force, and limiting the transfer of surplus military equipment to local police departments.
“We’ll try and fashion something that has broader bipartisan appeal,” Romney said. “If there’s injustice, we want to correct that. If there is prejudice, we want to change that. If there’s bias, we hope to give people a different perspective and that we can provide a sense of equality among our people.”
Romney also spoke emotionally about his decision to march with a group of Christian church leaders through the streets of Washington on Sunday, adding that one of his sons and some of his grandchildren also participated in protests. He also said he looked to his father, the late George Romney, whose tenure as governor of Michigan in the 1960s included marching with African Americans who were demanding racial equality.
“One of the fundamental principles of Christianity is that we’re all sons and daughters of the same God,” Romney said. “And a fundamental principle of this country is that we’re entitled to equal rights under the law and that we’re all esteemed as brothers and sisters. I stated the obvious, which is black lives matter.
“Our whole family is very animated about the bias and the prejudice that too often still exists in a country, which is the land of the free and which was founded upon the principle that all men are created in the image of God, and are equal under the law,” he added.
Romney declined to respond to President Donald Trump’s recent Twitter jabs, which were aimed at mocking Romney for joining the protests. Romney has long criticized Trump, and he was the only Republican who voted to remove the president from office in the impeachment trial earlier this year. Trump has largely alienated Romney as a result, and continues to go after him on Twitter.
“Tremendous sincerity, what a guy,” Trump tweeted in response to a video of Romney speaking with a reporter at the protests. “Hard to believe, with this kind of political talent, his numbers would ‘tank’ so badly in Utah!”
Despite Trump’s assertions, Romney’s approval rating has spiked in his home state in recent months. He said he hoped his efforts could bring more African American voters into the Republican Party.
“My party obviously has an embarrassingly small share of African American votes,” Romney said. “I certainly did in my election and we have since. And I’d like to see that change. But that isn’t what motivated me to stand up and speak. I saw a heinous murder carried out by a person with a badge. And I know that’s an outlier. … But when there’s a bad apple, it’s got to be pointed out and addressed.”
Romney did not vote for Trump in 2016, instead writing in his wife, Ann. On Monday, he said he planned to “stay quiet” on his 2020 vote.
“I’m not going to be describing who I’ll be voting for, I don’t imagine,” he said. “My plan is to stay quiet on that.”