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D.C. Memo: Delegation responds to George Floyd killing

Plus: Rep. Dean Phillips has two pieces of legislation on the House floor; Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at the DFL Convention this weekend; and more.

REUTERS/Eric Miller
Protesters on Tuesday gathered at the scene where George Floyd died.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, the Minnesota delegation responds to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis; Rep. Dean Phillips has two pieces of legislation on the House floor; and Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at the DFL Convention this weekend.

George Floyd

On Monday evening, a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. The officer in the video, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck while Floyd could be heard saying: “I can’t breathe.” The video was shared widely on the internet and protest from the community in Minneapolis has been met with police violence.

“I worry about the humanity of individuals, and not just the police, because we know a lot of black people are dying at the hands of non-police officers,” said Minneapolis N.A.A.C.P President Leslie Redmond, in an interview with the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner. “But specifically police officers — how can they turn off their humanity and kill black people in cold blood for what a lot of the time seems like nothing? It reminds you of much of the history of lynching in America. And now we are just being lynched without the ropes.”

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Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar, Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman demanding a thorough investigation.

“While we understand that the facts are still coming to light, and that state and local authorities are reviewing the case, we believe that the seriousness of the incident requires additional independent oversight by law enforcement at all levels,” they write. “We urge you to ensure that all evidence is quickly secured, including all video footage, and to aggressively pursue justice.”

Klobuchar’s own statement, which was posted on Twitter while calling Floyd’s killing an “officer-involved death,” has drawn criticism for not addressing who killed Floyd, specifically how he died or the racial dynamics behind the incident.

“How did” Klobuchar and her team “write this statement and not even bother to mention the name #GeorgeFloyd? A number of folks have hit me today about this,” said Roland Martin, who hosts a national Black news program with a large audience.

Tiffany Cabán, a progressive candidate for Queens District Attorney who narrowly lost her bid last year, said Klobuchar’s statement “isn’t surprising considering your record as DA. Doesn’t make it any less aborrent.”

“A police officer killed him,” said Mitra Jalali, a city councilwoman from St. Paul. “Deleting this acknowledgment is a language trick in service of violent white supremacy. It is the “disappearing” of white- /police-perpetrated violence that white leaders engage in to shift onus and fault onto Black victims.”

(Klobuchar issued another statement Thursday: “Everyone is hurting,” she tweeted. “Anyone with an ounce of humanity is outraged by George Floyd’s killing in the hands of police.)

Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican and one of the few former police officers in Congress, said in a statement: “What happened in Minneapolis on Monday was incredibly sad and I am heartbroken by this loss of life. As a former law enforcement officer, I do not believe anyone is above the law. George Floyd’s tragic death calls for a complete and thorough investigation. I am praying for the City of Minneapolis and hope future demonstrations are done peacefully.”

“I support Mayor Frey’s call for a comprehensive investigation, including a full federal investigation,” McCollum said in a statement. “George Floyd should be alive today, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who loved him.”

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“My hope is that by fully prosecuting this case in pursuit of that, we can also begin to seriously address the inequities in our criminal justice system and focus on saving lives, including the lives of black men who have suffered disproportionately under it for centuries,” said Third District Rep. Dean Phillips.

Omar wrote on Twitter: “The police officer who killed George Floyd should be charged with murder.”

“If any of us, today, took a life in the way that police officer took that life, we would be in handcuffs being hauled over to a jail cell and being prosecuted for murder,” she told reporters on Capitol Hill today. “We live in a society where that doesn’t automatically happen, where we have to make statements asking for that.”

Phillips bills get votes

Rep. Dean Phillips had two bills up for a vote today, both dealing with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Federal loans established to help small businesses pay for payroll, rent, and utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more at MinnPost. 

One of Phillip’s bills, The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, a mix of extensions and PPP modifications that make it easier to access the loans, passed 417-1.

The other, the The Transparency and Reporting for the Underbanked and Taxpayers at Home (TRUTH) Act, failed 269-147. The legislation required a two-thirds vote to pass.

After the vote, Phillips told me: “It’s the best of times and the worst of times. Thrilled that our PPP Flexibility Act passed … and as thrilled as I am about that, I’m dismayed that the complimentary transparency effort, the TRUTH Act, failed. It’s inexplicable and terribly disappointing.”

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DFL convention

Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at the 2020 DFL Convention this weekend. Biden is also speaking at other Democratic conventions around the country, including Texas.

A new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 poll of Minnesota voters has Biden at 49 percent to President Trump’s 44 percent, reports Pat Condon. Klobuchar, who will also be speaking at the convention, had a rough week in terms of her chances to be the VP pick.

The Minnesota GOP convention is also this weekend, after technical problems halted the last attempt at statewide endorsements.

Proxy voting

House members can now vote by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the new House rules, one member can vote for a maximum of 10 other members. 74 Democrats so far have asked to vote by proxy, while no Republicans have filed their intent to do so. Republican leadership has called voting by proxy under special rules during the COVID-19 pandemic “socialist.”

So far, no Minnesota representatives have submitted a proxy letter to the House Clerk. You can see a full list here.

By the numbers

In other news

Quote of the week

“We can fix windows and doors but NOT the life of George Floyd,” said Saida Hassan, whose mother’s restaurant was damaged during the Minneapolis protests that followed Floyd’s killing.

What I’m reading

Suhauna Hussain for the LA Times: Amazon workers are tracking coronavirus cases themselves

Amazon isn’t providing the numbers on how many workers in their facilities are contracting COVID-19. So workers are doing it themselves. A dive into how exactly workers are coming together to track the virus’ spread.

Derek Willis and Moiz Syed in ProPublica: Coronavirus Contracts: Tracking Federal Purchases to Fight the Coronavirus

If you’ve been curious about how the Federal government has been procuring supplies to deal with COVID-19, ProPublica has built out a nice searchable tracker from federal procurement data.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.