Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown has announced that he would support a GOP-led effort to overturn a controversial Washington, D.C., crime bill, despite comments and actions he has made in recent years that signaled his support for efforts to defund the police.
Brown, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2024, told a reporter Tuesday that he will support overturning the bill that would have reduced maximum penalties for certain crimes, including burglaries, robberies and carjackings.
“That was the side that the mayor took, the side law enforcement took, and I plan to vote that way,” Brown, who has served in the Senate since 2007, told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Brown’s position is in line with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but he also has a history of criticizing American police and supporting criminal justice reform measures.
He also claimed in June 2020 that “policing didn’t create our nation’s institutionalized racism. It’s a product of it, and it reinforces it.”
“’Defund the police’ doesn’t mean we disband police departments. It doesn’t mean we don’t spend for law enforcement. It means we start thinking more about training police, about discipline, about making sure that mental health services are available in communities,” Brown said at the time.
That same month, Brown attempted to redefine meaning of the movement to “defund the police,” according to Columbus’ NBC4, and said, “I don’t think anyone knows exactly what it means.”
“What we should do is look at how we’re funding the police,” he added. “Do we spend a little less on police and more on social workers, and more on dealing with the causes of so much social unrest?”
Brown — who served as an original co-sponsor of the Justice In Policing Act of 2020, which limited qualified immunity for police officers — also protested a measure brought forward by GOP South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, claiming in 2020 that it would provide additional “funding for policing without adequate strings attached and without a similar investment in community supports.”
At the time, Brown said Scott’s Justice Act legislation served as a “check in the box” that would not be beneficial to police reform.
“The Justice Act could even put us in danger of moving in the opposite direction, by providing more funding for policing without adequate strings attached and without a similar investment in community supports,” said Brown, who voted against invoking cloture on the measure from Scott.
Last year, Brown, along with nine other Democratic senators, called on President Biden to “prioritize the demilitarization of law enforcement by limiting the transfer or purchase of certain military equipment for federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement agencies.”
“Militarized law enforcement increases the prevalence of police violence without making our communities safer. Now is the moment to make these necessary reforms,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden.
Brown’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News when asked whether the senator stands by his prior remarks.
The original Washington, D.C., legislation Brown is expected to vote to overturn this week would have reduced maximum penalties for certain crimes, like burglaries, robberies and carjackings, along with scrapping some mandatory minimum sentences. It faced backlash from conservatives and some liberals. Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the bill in January, but the City Council overrode her veto.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives stepped in with a measure to override the City Council changes. President Biden said last week that he would sign the House measure rather than veto it.
Under the Constitution, Congress can serve as a super city council for the District of Columbia.
Bowser has said she prefers that Congress stay out of the District’s affairs, but her veto has been frequently cited by critics in Congress as proof that the criminal code revision was out of step with mainstream Democratic thought.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., confirmed Monday that the vote on the crime bill will take place this week.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this article.