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H.R. 5698: Protect and Serve Act of 2018

May 16, 2018 at 6:35 p.m. ET. On Passage of the Bill in the House.

This was a vote to pass H.R. 5698 (115th) in the House.

A bill that recently passed the House with large bipartisan support would change the way our country punishes anybody who kills or attempts to kill a law enforcement or police officer.

Context

128 law enforcement officers were killed in 2017. And 2018 is on pace to exceed 2017. While the trend during this century is down, both this year’s and last year’s numbers were higher than the modern low of 2013.

How might legislators try to bring these statistics down further?

What the bill does

The Protect and Serve Act would categorize crimes against law enforcement as hate crimes, and significantly increase penalties accordingly.

The House bill makes any intentional attempt to physically harm a law enforcement officer a federal crime, and would imprison all offenders for a maximum of 10 years. That increases to life in prison if the officer is killed.

The Senate version goes a step further, by classifying such attacks against law enforcement not just as a federal crime but as a hate crime. However, the prison sentences would still be the same.

The legislation was introduced in May, in the Senate (S. 2794) by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and in the House (H.R. 5698) by Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL4).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill takes a harsher approach to those who would impede public safety.

“After 27 years in law enforcement, I believe that officers must hold themselves to the highest standards, be accountable to their communities, and perform their duties with honor and integrity. There has been a 75 percent increase in officers shot and killed this year,” cosponsor Rep. Val Demings (D-FL10) said in a press release.

“Ambush-style killings have taken numerous officers’ lives. Last month, two sheriff’s deputies here in Florida were assassinated while eating lunch,” Demings continued. “We must give our officers the tools, training, and protections needed to be safe on the job. I call on my colleagues in Congress to do our job so our officers can do theirs.”

What opponents say

While the House vote enjoyed large bipartisan majorities, some holdouts existed on both the right and the left.

“First, police already have substantial protections under federal and state law, rendering this bill superfluous,” wrote a letter signed by several dozen organizations across the ideological spectrum, from the ACLU and NAACP to the National Council of Churches. “Second, this bill signals that there is a ‘war on police,’ which is not only untrue, but an unhelpful and dangerous narrative to uplift.”

“And finally, bills similar to Protect and Serve that have been introduced in states around the country — so called ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bills — appear to be a political response to the growing national movement for police accountability in the face of continued killings and assaults of unarmed African Americans,” the letter continued. “Therefore, this bill is divisive and will have a negative impact on the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Votes and odds of passage

After attracting four Republican and one Democratic House cosponsors, the bill passed the House overwhelmingly only a week after its introduction.

The House vote was 382–35, or 91 percent passage. Republicans supported 220–11 (or 95 percent) while Democrats supported 162–24 (or 87 percent).

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it has attracted one Senate cosponsor: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). (Although, again, it had few cosponsors in the House but still passed overwhelmingly.)

Totals

All Votes R D
Yea 92%
 
 
382
220
 
162
 
Nay 8%
 
 
35
11
 
24
 
Not Voting
 
 
10
3
 
7
 

Passed. Simple Majority Required. Source: house.gov.

Ideology Vote Chart

Key:
Republican - Yea Democrat - Yea Republican - Nay Democrat - Nay
Seat position based on our ideology score.

Cartogram Map

Each hexagon represents one congressional district. Solid hexes are Yea votes.

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Vote Details

Notes: The Speaker’s Vote? “Aye” or “Yea”?
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Study Guide

How well do you understand this vote? Use this study guide to find out.

You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page. For a guide to understanding the bill this vote was about, see here.

What was the procedure for this vote?

  1. What was this vote on?
  2. Not all votes are meant to pass legislation. In the Senate some votes are not about legislation at all, since the Senate must vote to confirm presidential nominations to certain federal positions.

    This vote is related to a bill. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what it is about. Congress makes many decisions in the process of passing legislation, such as on the procedures for debating the bill, whether to change the bill before voting on passage, and even whether to vote on passage at all.

    You can learn more about the various motions used in Congress at EveryCRSReport.com. If you aren’t sure what the House was voting on, try seeing if it’s on this list.

  3. What is the next step after this vote?
  4. Take a look at where this bill is in the legislative process. What might come next? Keep in mind what this specific vote was on, and the context of the bill. Will there be amendments? Will the other chamber of Congress vote on it, or let it die?

    For this question it may help to briefly examine the bill itself.

What is your analysis of this vote?

  1. What trends do you see in this vote?
  2. Members of Congress side together for many reasons beside being in the same political party, especially so for less prominent legislation or legislation specific to a certain region. What might have determined how the roll call came out in this case? Does it look like Members of Congress voted based on party, geography, or some other reason?

    One tool that will be helpful in answering this question is the cartogram at the top of the page. A cartogram is a stylized map of the United States that shows each district as an identical hexagon. This view allows you to see the how the representatives from each district voted arranged by their geography and colored by their political party. What trends can you see in the cartogram for this vote?

  3. How did your representative vote?
  4. There is one vote here that should be more important to you than all the others. These are the votes cast by your representative, which is meant to represent you and your community. Do you agree with how your representative voted? Why do you think they voted the way they did?

    If you don’t already know who your Members of Congress are you can find them by entering your address here.

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