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House Democrats facing potentially challenging re-elections push for police funding vote prior to recess

With crime remaining a top issue on the minds of Americans, a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives is turning up the volume in ongoing efforts to land a floor vote for a bill to fund police before the House goes on recess in August.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that “I think we’re on a good path” when asked about the prospects of passing a police funding bill. The speaker, as first reported by Punchbowl News, met a day earlier with a handful of House Democrats who have led the charge to pass the legislation.

While the lawmakers’ efforts are, first and foremost, about policy, there is a campaign component. Many of the Democrats represent swing districts and face potentially challenging re-election bids in November amid a brutal political climate fueled by record inflation, rising crime and President Biden’s underwater approval ratings.

“We’re going to keep pushing because the folks in our district are asking us to find ways to fund local law enforcement to provide more support to fight crime and train and recruit our police officers,” Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas told Fox News Thursday.

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Pappas, a two-term congressman from a battleground district in New Hampshire, has been targeted by Republicans as he seeks re-election. He was one of the cosponsors at the beginning of the year of a bipartisan measure that would secure funding for small police departments to help them train, recruit and retain officers and acquire body camera data storage and provide mental health resources for officers. 

Asked about the broader police funding bill that he and a couple of dozen lawmakers are urging leadership to bring to the floor for a vote, Pappas emphasized crime.

“This is exactly what our districts need at this moment in time,” Pappas said. “We’ve seen an increase in crime rates, the opioid epidemic, an addiction epidemic continues to rage. We need to be giving law enforcement all the tools they need to stay safe.”

Pappas spoke with Fox News the same day President Biden was scheduled to travel to Pennsylvania to propose a steep funding increase for police. But the trip was canceled early Thursday after the president tested positive for COVID-19.

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The continued push by the White House and many congressional Democrats to fund police comes amid rising crime levels across the country that started two years ago during the coronavirus pandemic. The efforts by Biden and congressional Democrats also aim to counter perceptions fueled by GOP attacks that the Democrats are the party of “defunding the police.” 

The “defund” movement gained plenty of traction with many progressives amid protests from coast to coast over police brutality toward minorities in the wake of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a White Minneapolis police officer. But Biden and many Democrats opposed it.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has made the issue of crime and, specifically, defunding the police a big part of its messaging in this midterm cycle. And it’s likely the issue will show up in the House GOP re-election committee’s ads in the autumn campaign.

“Every House Democrat owns their party’s reckless efforts to defund the police and the ensuing violent crime wave terrorizing communities across the country,” NRCC communications director Michael McAdams argued in a statement to Fox News.

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The Congressional Leadership Fund, the top outside super PAC that backs House GOP incumbents and candidates, used the crime issue in its ads in the 2020 cycle, and it’s been a part of the group’s messaging this cycle as well.

“A last-minute show vote isn’t going to undo two-plus years of one party and one party only pushing every policy imaginable to make it harder to crack down on crime,” CLF Communications Director Calvin Moore told Fox News as he pointed to the push by House Democrats to land a floor vote in the coming days. “Public safety was one of the most effective messages against Democrats in 2020, and with crime worsening, it’s only become an even more potent message for 2022.”

But Pappas argued that such “defund the police” attacks may fall flat.

“That’s never been true about the work I’ve been doing in Congress or most of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus,” he said.

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC’s counterpart, highlighted the efforts by House Democrats.

“House Democrats delivered COPS grants, $350 billion in the American Rescue Plan that could be used to support law enforcement and passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act because they know that safe communities rely on police having the resources and funding they need to properly serve our communities,” DCCC spokesperson Chris Taylor told Fox News. 

Taylor charged that “Democrats will continue their fight to ensure our communities are safe, while Republicans double-down on their extremist campaign to pass a nationwide abortion ban and turn back the clock on fundamental rights like same-sex marriage and access to contraception.” 

Regardless of the politics, Pappas pointed to the urgency of the issue, saying, “I think this is where the rubber hits the road here. We’ve had a lot of concerns about public safety. It’s important that Congress respond and make sure that our law enforcement is well resourced as possible.”

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