Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, two members of “the squad” of progressive congresswomen, announced their support Tuesday for the BREATHE Act, which seeks to defund the police and pay reparations to African-Americans, among other radical provisions.
“We can start to envision through this bill a new version for public safety — a new vision for public safety, one that protects and affirms black lives,” Tlaib said on a Zoom call, the New York Post reported.
Pressley was on the call but was unable to speak due to a technical issue.
The proposed legislation — which has not yet been introduced in the House of Representatives, according to the Post — would use the federal spending power to incentivize local jurisdictions to defund their police forces.
Further, it would award grants to states and local jurisdictions that close their prisons, jails and youth incarceration facilities.
At the federal level, the BREATHE Act calls for the elimination of agencies used to “expand the criminal legal system.”
Agencies listed include the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The plan also would close all federal prisons and immigration detention centers, as well as repeal laws that “criminalize human movement and border entry.”
Additionally, the legislation would prohibit law enforcement from employing “surveillance tactics that are disproportionately used to target black, brown, and Muslim communities.”
Tactics identified include facial recognition, drones and related technologies.
Police would also be barred from using electronic monitoring (including ankle monitors) and smartphone applications to track those who are presumably on court-ordered probation.
The BREATHE Act would incorporate Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, H.R. 40, which has 135 Democrat co-sponsors.
Lee’s legislation states its purpose is to address the injustice of “slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865” and its current impact on living African-Americans, as well as make proposals for reparations.
Additionally, the BREATHE Act would establish a separate commission to “design reparations for mass criminalization — including the War on Drugs, the criminalization of prostitution, and police violence; border violence; and the systemic violation of the U.S. Government’s treaty obligations to Tribal nations.”
Tlaib tweeted about her support for the measure on Tuesday.
“Today, I am proud to join the calls coming out of one of the largest movements for justice that my district and our country have ever seen to say unapologetically: I support the #BREATHEAct.”
We must invest in a new vision of public safety.
Today, I am proud to join the calls coming out of one of the largest movements for justice that my district and our country have ever seen to say unapologetically:
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) July 7, 2020
Townhall political editor Guy Benson described the BREATHE Act as a “nonstarter” and a “completely radical piece of legislation” during an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday.
He added it has “zero percent chance of passing. Certainly, with Republicans in control of the Senate and Donald Trump in the White House, it won’t become law.”
Benson argued it is telling that Democratic lawmakers would support such legislation even as multiple U.S. cities are seeing a spike in violent crime.
“I’m not even sure [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi is terribly eager to put this on the floor for a vote in the House of Representatives,” he said, “because it is filled with poison pills, even for a number of Democrats.”
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