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Heavily armed and camouflaged police officers stand by their armored vehicle on November 4, 2016 in Wilmington, Ohio. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Heavily armed and camouflaged police officers stand by their armored vehicle on November 4, 2016 in Wilmington, Ohio. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)

Here Are the 22 Democrats Who Voted Against Limiting Transfer of Military Gear to Cops

"This is absolutely unacceptable and these Democrats... should be held accountable."

Kenny Stancil

In a blow to demilitarization advocates, 22 House Democrats on Thursday joined nearly all of the chamber's Republicans in voting down an amendment that would have curtailed the flow of military weapons to police departments across the United States.

The amendment (pdf) to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), sought to reform the Defense Department's 1033 program, which has authorized the transfer of more than $1.5 billion worth of "excess" military equipment to local law enforcement agencies since 2013.

Johnson's amendment would have prohibited the Pentagon-to-police transfer of certain types of combat gear, including firearms, military vehicles, and aircraft. And as Stephen Semler of the Security Policy Reform Institute noted Thursday in Jacobin, prohibitions would have applied retroactively.

"This is a big deal," Semler wrote, before the measure was defeated. "Police have received nearly 70,000 firearms, over 5,000 military vehicles, and 358 aircraft through the 1033 program since its inception. Because these items are technically on loan to police, the Pentagon has the authority to recall this equipment. Johnson's language would effect such a recall on an unprecedented scale."

Just two Republicans voted for the amendment. The following 22 Democrats joined their GOP counterparts to strike it down:

  • Cindy Axne (Iowa)
  • Cheri Bustos (Ill.)
  • Charlie Crist (Fla.)
  • Henry Cuellar (Texas)
  • Antonio Delgado (N.Y.)
  • Val Demings (Fla.)
  • Lizzie Fletcher (Texas)
  • Jared Golden (Maine)
  • Josh Gottheimer (N.J.)
  • Josh Harder (Calif.)
  • Jim Himes (Conn.)
  • Ron Kind (Wis.)
  • Conor Lamb (Pa.)
  • Susie Lee (Nev.)
  • Stephanie Murphy (Fla.)
  • Chris Pappas (N.H.)
  • Scott Peters (Calif.)
  • Kurt Schrader (Ore.)
  • Kim Schrier (Wash.)
  • Eric Swalwell (Calif.)
  • Filemon Vela (Texas)
  • Susan Wild (Pa.)

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Yasmine Taeb, a human rights attorney and member of a coalition aiming to end the 1033 program, told HuffPost.

"These Democrats that supported this provision twice in the George Floyd Justice in Policing bill should be held accountable for siding with police unions today rather than their own constituents who are calling to get weapons of war and military equipment off of our streets," she added.

HuffPost reported:

The day before the vote, the National Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter to House leaders from both parties urging them to vote against Johnson's amendment, falsely claiming the equipment sent to police is "demilitarized" and that there are no examples of the equipment being misused.

The language in Johnson's amendment had already cleared the House as part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police accountability bill that died in the Senate earlier this week after bipartisan negotiations collapsed.

This week revealed a sharp contrast between congressional lawmakers' refusal to implement even modest reforms to curb police brutality—more than a year after a nationwide wave of protests—and their willingness to approve ever-larger amounts of military spending despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

After Johnson's amendment to restrict 1033 transfers and a pair of other NDAA amendments to cut the Pentagon's funding by tens of billions of dollars failed Thursday, the House voted 316 to 113 to pass a $778 billion military budget.

Earlier this week, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) highlighted the connections between the Pentagon's massive budget, surplus weaponry, and widespread police violence in the U.S.

"With police departments nationwide set to receive a massive influx of military equipment under the 1033 program following the Afghanistan war," Pressley told The Intercept, "Congress must take decisive action before further lives are lost and more trauma is inflicted on our communities."

According to Semler: "Pressley's concern is backed by historical precedent. The drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq led to a surge of 1033 transfers at home, particularly of the notorious Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) which were sent to Iraq by the thousands during the course of the U.S. occupation of the country."

"The 1033 program exacerbates existing trends in U.S. policing," Semler noted. "Unsurprisingly, police become more violent the more combat gear they receive. It also inflates law enforcement budgets: the equipment is ostensibly free, but the costs of shipping, training, operations, and maintenance are passed along to state and local governments."

Polls show that a majority of voters want to end the 1033 program. A 2020 survey conducted by Data for Progress found that 62% of Democrats and 47% of Republicans support making it illegal for the federal government to provide civilian police departments with military-grade weapons intended for warfare.

While Congress failed to rein in 1033 on Thursday, President Joe Biden still has the power to issue an executive order that would effectively halt the program and require police to return billions of dollars worth of military equipment to the Pentagon—as more than 50 progressive advocacy groups and dozens of House Democrats, led by Johnson, urged him to do in April.

If the White House refuses to place a moratorium on the 1033 program following the rejection of Johnson's amendment, Semler wrote, "the Biden administration will be as guilty as the members who cast the opposing votes."


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