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As Talks Bog Down, Hopes for Bipartisan Deals on Biden’s Priorities Dim


“We would like bipartisanship, but I don’t think we have a seriousness on the part of the Republican leadership to address the major crises facing this country,” Mr. Sanders said. “If they’re not coming forward, we’ve got to go forward alone.”

Negotiations have also stalled on policing reform, with three lawmakers still unable to reach an agreement on how or whether to alter the legal liability shield for individual police officers — known as qualified immunity — to make it easier to bring civil lawsuits against them for wrongdoing. Disagreement over whether to change that doctrine had doomed attempts to pass policing legislation last summer, amid a national outcry for reform.

Mr. Biden had hoped lawmakers would broker a deal before May 25, the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer. But a breakthrough has remained elusive despite continued, closed-door negotiations between Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California, and Senators Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina.

“We want to eliminate qualified immunity, and that is where we’re starting,” Mr. Booker said in an interview broadcast on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Clearly, you’ve heard very publicly the red lines on the other side. And again, this is one of the big issues that we’re working very hard to see if we can bridge this wide gulf.”

Prospects to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol assault also dimmed last week, as Republican leaders dug in against the commission in an attempt to doom its prospects in the Senate even though one of their own House members negotiated its details with Democrats.

The Republican leaders of both chambers, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, have opposed the creation of such a panel. Mr. McConnell warnedthat Democrats had partisan motives in moving to set up the commission and would try to use it as a cudgel against Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections.

Several rank-and-file Republican senators who had publicly mulled backing the commission quickly fell in line, adopting the argument that the proposal was not truly bipartisan and that the investigation would take too long, underscoring a difficult path for Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold required for passage of the bill in the evenly divided Senate.



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