Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives saw an amendment reach the floor designed to stop all federal funds from flowing to any law enforcement entity that the Department of Justice has identified as engaging in any racial or religious profiling. The amendment, which was obviously intended to address the recent controversy about the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims, was supported by every Democrat in New York City, but ultimately failed to pass largely on Republican-led opposition.
“In September of last year, I asked the Department of Justice to investigate what we now know was a pattern of surveillance and infiltration by the New York Police Department against innocent American Muslims in the absence of a valid investigative reason,” the amendment’s sponsor, New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt, said, launching into a lengthy criticism of the NYPD but finally declaring the legislation had broader aims. “Profiling is wrong. Profiling on the basis of the race, ethnicity, and religion is a violation of core constitutional principles.”
Congressman Pete King, an outspoken defender of all things related to homeland security, took to the floor to blast the amendment.
“So I cannot be more emphatic or stronger in my denunciation of this amendment, calling for its defeat and urging people to stand by the NYPD, which has kept New York safe for 10 1/2 years,” Mr. King said after thoroughly defending the notion of gathering intelligence focused on particular communities.
“I went to too many funerals. I attended too many wakes. I lost too many constituents,” he added. “I’m not going to allow it to happen so long as I’m in this Congress.”
Asked about the vote this afternoon, Mr. King said it wasn’t the measure itself that was the problem, as it would only bar funding in cases where the Department of Justice has ruled there to be discriminatory practices, but rather the whole speech that took place introducing it, which he felt would have emboldened the NYPD’s critics.
“If that amendment had been introduced by itself without any commentary, fine, let it pass,” he told The Politicker. ”It was introduced the speaker, who used his entire speaking time to attack the NYPD … It would have been played up by special interest groups like The Associated Press, like The New York Times, [and] weaken the NYPD.”
“I was surprised,” he said of the strong support the measure received from House Democrats. “I could understand why ultra-liberals who are against the police would vote for it, but I couldn’t understand why everybody else did.”
Watch the debate on the House floor below: