It is the first major piece of legislation aimed at addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system that Congress has taken up since June, when the House, responding to a national outcry for racial justice, passed a behemoth policing overhaul bill, which ultimately was stalled by partisan disagreement. To date, Congress has yet to send any legislation to the president’s desk addressing the issue since nationwide protests last summer.
“This is part of the same effort to make it possible for minority communities to live on an equal basis in this country,” Mr. Nadler said.
Republicans denounced the bill, and castigated Democrats for bringing it to the floor before lawmakers had struck a compromise on coronavirus relief. Democrats had postponed a vote on the legislation scheduled earlier in the fall after some moderate lawmakers facing difficult re-election races fretted about fending off those attacks, during a campaign in which Republicans accused them of backing a radical liberal agenda.
“With mere days left in the year to get something done for the American people who are suffering, Speaker Pelosi has brought up a drug legalization bill,” said Representative Pete Stauber, Republican of Minnesota. “As children struggle to receive their education and child care facilities close; as seniors remain isolated from their families, this is their solution.”
Five Republicans broke from their party to support the bill, as did Representative Justin Amash, Libertarian of Michigan. — But some who ultimately voted for the bill were vocal in airing their complaints.
“If Pelosi was serious about marijuana reform we would take a vote on the STATES Act, which would pass the Senate and be signed into law,” Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said, referencing a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate that would legalize marijuana. “But she isn’t. So we’ll do this instead.”
Mr. Gaetz added: “I prefer my marijuana reform not dipped in reparations policy, frankly.”
For Democrats, that was exactly the point.