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McConnell promises quick action on GOP police reform proposal

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to members of the press after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at Hart Senate Office Building May 12, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans held the weekly luncheon to discuss their agenda. By Clare Foran and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday promised quick action in the chamber on a newly unveiled GOP police reform proposal, challenging Democrats to decide whether to block the legislation from advancing or allow it to come up for debate on the floor.

"What I'm announcing today is after we do two circuit judges who are queued up either this week or early next week, we're going to turn to the Scott bill," McConnell said, referring to Senate GOP legislation led by Republican Sen. Tim Scott. McConnell made the remarks during a Capitol Hill press conference to formally unveil the legislation.

"I'm going to file cloture on the motion to proceed and our Democratic friends, if they want to make a law, and not just try to make a point, I hope they'll join us in getting on the bill and trying to move forward in the way the Senate does move forward when it's trying to actually get an outcome," McConnell said.

The announcement from McConnell sets up competing action in the House and Senate on different police reform proposals. House Democrats are expected to vote next week on their own sweeping policing overhaul measure, a bill that will be marked-up by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

What's in the bill

Key differences between the legislative proposals from Republicans and Democrats are likely to create hurdles to any attempt to get legislation across the finish line in Congress and to the President's desk.

The GOP plan has a major emphasis on incentivizing states to take action. The Democratic plan, in contrast, has a heavy emphasis on setting national standards, such as mandates for federal uniformed officers to wear body cameras and banning chokeholds. Scott's proposal does not include an outright ban on chokeholds but Scott argued earlier this week "we get very, very close to that place" by blocking federal grant funds to departments that don't ban chokeholds themselves.

During Wednesday's press conference, Scott spoke of the importance of increased data collection to improve policing practices.

"We have to have the right information so that we can direct our resources as a federal government to making sure that the outcomes lead to safer officers and safer suspects," Scott said during Wednesday's press conference where he, McConnell and other GOP senators wore masks, removing them to address reporters.

The Democrats' plan also bans no-knock warrants, the type of warrant that ultimately led to the wrongful shooting death of Breonna Taylor. Scott's plan in contrast does not ban no-knock warrants but instead requires states to provide data on when they use no-knock search warrants.

"We don't have any information around no-knock warrants, so for us to start a conversation with banning no-knocks doesn't sound like a solid position based on any data because we don't have that data. Once we have the information, we can then turn to the training that is necessary to de-escalate situations," Scott said.

Chambers head for a clash

Democrats have leverage to block the Scott plan from advancing. It will need 60 votes to clear a filibuster in order to begin debate, meaning Republicans will need at least seven Democratic votes to take the measure up.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday criticized the newly unveiled Senate GOP policing proposal, saying, "we have only had the bill for a few hours and are reviewing it, but what's clear is that the Senate Republican proposal on policing does not rise to the moment."

Schumer suggested, however, that Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to negotiate changes.

"We expect our Republican colleagues to work with us to make significant improvement to any legislation in order for it to pass. We take this very seriously. As we continue to review the Republican legislation, I will be talking with my caucus about the best way to strengthen it. This bill will need dramatic improvement," Schumer said.

The discussion comes after tensions within the Senate GOP conference spilled out into public view earlier this week over the potential timeline for dealing with the legislation.

Scott expressed concerns on Monday after some senior Senate Republicans signaled that the chamber may have to wait at least a month to take up the policing legislation, warning, "I think us waiting a month before we vote is a bad decision."

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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