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Booker sees "a pathway forward" on police reform in Senate after Tyre Nichols' death

Full interview: Sen. Booker on "Face the Nation"
Full interview: Sen. Cory Booker on "Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan" 09:12

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said Sunday he continues to believe Democrats can reach a deal with Republicans on police reform legislation in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, with calls for change gaining renewed momentum a year and a half after formal bipartisan talks collapsed in Congress.

Booker shared the status of police reform talks between him and his colleagues during an appearance on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, saying he sees the potential to find agreement on increasing law enforcement standards and strengthening accountability in police departments.

"There is a pathway forward, and I'm going to be tireless and not stop until we do significant things to make Americans safer, and to make our policing standards higher. And I'm not standing alone on this," Booker said. "The fact that we have police leaders, the largest union that represents the majority of police, that we've been able to come together on bipartisan ideals. I think there's a pathway forward, though I'm very sobered in a divided Congress about our ability to get it done."

Calls for reform have grown in the aftermath of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols' death following a violent beating by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, in January. Body camera and surveillance footage showed Nichols being beaten by Memphis police officers after a traffic stop on Jan. 7. He was hospitalized and died three days later. Five officers involved the arrest now face a number of criminal charges including second-degree murder.

"This was a really horrific murder. We saw a man on the ground, handcuffed, being beaten, and eventually die as a result of his wounds," said Booker.

"This should not happen in the United States of America," he continued. "As we just said, globally, we should be setting the standard for human rights, civil rights and for public safety. But yet we've seen this happen with too much regularity. Names that we should not know nationally, that we do from George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, to Eric Garner. This is just too much."

Booker, alongside GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, was the lead negotiator in the Senate on police reform after the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a package of reforms that Democrats adopted along party lines after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020. In September 2021, negotiators said the talks had failed to reach an agreement that could overcome Republican opposition in the upper chamber.

Booker said on Sunday that he and Scott "have not stopped talking," and noted that he has continued to have conversations with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, also from South Carolina, about revisiting the reform bill during the current congressional session.

President Biden met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday to discuss potential executive action on police reform as well as legislative options, a congressional aide told CBS News. Vice President Kamala Harris called for passage of the Justice in Policing Act at Nichols' funeral last week.

"We demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," said Harris, who sponsored the bill during her tenure as a California senator. "Joe Biden will sign it and we should not delay and we will not be denied. It is not negotiable."

Booker said on "Face the Nation" that despite the collapse of "formal negotiations"  in 2021, he will continue to work with GOP leaders like Scott and Graham "to get big legislation or important legislation done."

"Again, Tim, and I have not stopped talking," he emphasized. "We're guys that have gotten the opportunity zone legislation done. We've gotten the criminal justice reform done. We may have stopped formal negotiations, but he and I are actually friends. We may be in different parties and disagreed on a host of stuff, but the reality is, we're two Black men in America, we've had really awful experiences with law enforcement that law enforcement leaders say are unjust.

"We're motivated, and I'll continue to work with him and Lindsey Graham and other folks in the ways that I've done before to get big legislation or important legislation done," he added, noting that Graham "agrees with me that there is common sense here ... You can't have accountability, without consequences when things go wrong."

Scott indicated that any discussion about "[r]esurrecting the House progressives' police reform bill is a nonstarter" on Twitter last week, referring to the Justice in Policing Act.

"I've been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing," Scott wrote. "Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge. Solutions that would have made a difference in places like Memphis & Kenosha."

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