Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, made clear in a private conversation with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chief Republican negotiator on the issue, that bipartisan policing talks are over.
Booker, Scott and Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California spent some six months trying to hash out a deal that could win 60 votes in the Senate, but talks were stymied by a number of complicated issues like qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers from being sued in civil court.
“It was clear at this negotiating table, in this moment, we were not making progress,” Booker told reporters in the Capitol. “In fact, recent back-and-forth with paper showed me that we were actually moving away from it. The negotiations we were in stopped. But the work will continue.”
Bass, who has been helming negotiations from the House side, confirmed that talks have ended.
“The problem is, at some point you just have to say, ‘Are you going to come to agreements or not?’ That’s it,” Bass aid. “It wasn’t like there was a big fight. It wasn’t like there was a big rupture, but at a certain point, you have to recognize that you’re just spinning your wheels.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Bass told CNN the talks were not in a good place.
“I think it’s because things have not moved forward,” Bass said. “At a certain point, you have to say, are we going to move forward or not — and I think we are trying to determine if we’re at that point.”
Ahead of Booker’s comments, Scott told CNN on Wednesday morning he was not planning to walk away from the negotiating table.
“Of course not,” he said when asked if he would pull out.
“It’s too important to the communities that we serve for anyone to get up and walk away at this point when we’re so close. We’re not in disagreement on any of the issues, we’re now working on the language within the agreement and if we walk away now, we walk away on that finish line,” Scott said.
Scott has said previously these negotiations could take years.
Bass said that with negotiations falling apart on the Hill, the next step is for President Joe Biden’s administration to act.
“What we are doing is calling on the administration to act, to the full extent that they can, whether that’s an executive order, whether that’s issuing instructions, whatever they can do,” Bass said. “We need the administration to act now because we don’t have any particular faith or hope that we will be able to get reforms passed the Senate.”
Biden is considering taking executive action to address policing reforms, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.
“(T)he President and everyone in the administration — we have strongly supported Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass in their efforts. And we’re greatly appreciative of their efforts, which we consider to be ongoing,” Psaki said during the White House press briefing. “But unfortunately, Republicans rejected reforms that even the previous President has supported and refused to engage on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address.”
Psaki added that the Biden administration was asked by Hill negotiators to “leave space” for bipartisan police reform negotiations among members of Congress.
“As these negotiators were attempting to come to an agreement, that had to meet the high bar that they had, they asked us to leave them space for those negotiations to take place. And that’s exactly what we did. And we supported them behind the scenes in any way that they asked for,” Psaki said.
Earlier this year, the policing talks were seen by many on the Hill as having the best chance of actually turning into bipartisan legislation. With the talks’ demise, President Joe Biden sees another one of his legislative priorities stall out in Congress.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez, Ted Barrett and Annie Grayer contributed to this report.