Top lawmakers in both parties, spurred to action by the death of a black Minnesota man in the custody of white police officers, said on Friday that they would hold hearings in the coming weeks on the use of excessive force by law enforcement and on racial violence.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview that he would convene a hearing in June to consider new federal actions that could help stem racial violence, especially acts of brutality by law enforcement against black and brown Americans. He also said his committee was looking at a federal chokehold ban and legislation to establish a commission to study the social status of black men and boys.
“What we are going to look at very specifically is where and under what circumstances the federal government can step in when local governments are engaging in or not stopping or controlling violence against racial minorities,” Mr. Nadler said.
In the Senate, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of that chamber’s Judiciary Committee, said he would seek testimony on proposals to improve policing, combat “racial discrimination regarding the use of force” and improve relations between police departments and the communities they serve. He described the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck in an episode captured on video, as “horrific.”
Mr. Graham said both he and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel, were “appalled at what we saw and believe it is important to have a hearing as soon as possible as to how to combat this outrage.”
“We intend to shine a bright light on the problems associated with Mr. Floyd’s death,” he said in a statement, “with the goal of finding a better way forward for our nation.”
The swift response on both sides of the Capitol reflected the interest by lawmakers in both parties to respond to a rash of killings of black Americans by white civilians and police officers this year, which have inspired protests across the country. But Democrats appeared to be moving more aggressively to advance specific legislative proposals aimed at forcing the Trump administration to mount a stronger response.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said Friday that the officers involved in the Minneapolis case “look pretty darn guilty,” and he called the death of Mr. Floyd “a hideous crime.” But he condemned violent protests across the country, and said that Americans should trust that the criminal justice system would hold those involved accountable.
Mr. McConnell also declined to comment on tweets by President Trump earlier Friday, suggesting that federal authorities would violently intervene if protesters in Minneapolis were not peaceful.
“I can speak for myself, I think what’s happening in Louisville and in Minneapolis really needs to stop,” Mr. McConnell said. “This senseless violence and reaction to this is not helpful. But you can certainly understand the outrage — you can certainly understand the outrage.”