Senate Republicans block bill condemning Trump over protesters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic resolution on Tuesday that would have condemned President Donald Trump for the use of gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters near the White House.

Protests have swept U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after a white policeman pinned his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis.

On Monday, federal officials cleared protesters near the White House before Trump marched through to pose holding a Bible outside a boarded-up church. That, and Trump’s threat to deploy troops to quell unrest, have deepened outrage among protesters.

Democrats tried to use fast-track procedures to pass the measure criticizing the Republican president by a unanimous voice vote but were stopped when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, objected.

“It just indulges in a myopic obsession with President Trump that has come to define the Democratic side,” he said.

Democrats blocked a McConnell counterproposal that, like their own measure, condemned violent protests and a pattern of police violence against black Americans but that offered no criticism of Trump.

House and Senate Democrats also said they were preparing legislation aimed at addressing police violence against African-Americans.

Trump has been criticized for Monday’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House, including by fellow Republicans.

Slideshow (3 Images)

“I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop,” Republican Senator Ben Sasse said in a statement.

Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told PBS NewsHour Americans needed calm, healing and reassurance and that was the tone “the president needs to project.”

Democrats were harsher, with one senator, Tammy Duckworth, calling Trump “a draft-dodging, wanna-be, tin-pot dictator.”

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan and Susan Heavey in Washingtin; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis