How a 1994 crime bill could hurt Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency

How a 1994 crime bill could hurt Joe Biden's bid for the presidencyJoe Biden, the former Vice President, is a front-runner in the Democratic race to be the party’s presidential nominee.  He has played up his 36-year tenure in the US Senate on the campaign trail – but some of the achievements he has touted over the years are now coming back to haunt him. One in particular, a 1994 crime bill which Mr Biden helped to write, has become a point of focus after Donald Trump began tweeting about it this week.  “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected,” Mr Trump tweeted. “In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!” What was the crime bill? The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton but did in fact receive bipartisan support.  At the time American cities were witnessing soaring violent crime rates and Democrats were under pressure not to appear soft on crime. ….Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing. That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2019 The bill expanded the federal death penalty and included mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who had already been convicted twice before for violent crimes, including, crucially, drug crimes. This disproportionately affected African Americans. It also included the original Violence Against Women Act, the federal assault weapons ban and more than $6 billion worth of funding for crime prevention programmes. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, violent crime did fall sharply from 1994 to 2000 but critics have said the bill was too punitive, did not address the root causes of crime and led to an era of mass incarcerations. The measures disproportionately affected black Americans and some have argued it augmented racial disparities in the country’s criminal justice system. How have views evolved since the 1990s? Mr Clinton later expressed regret over the bill, admitting the tough sentencing guidelines contributed to mass incarceration in 2015, saying “I signed a bill that made the problem worse”.  Mr Biden, on the other hand, has repeatedly claimed credit for the law, even referring to it as “the 1994 Biden Crime Bill  “.  However he has also previously said he did not support the so-called ‘three strikes’ element of the bill, which called for mandatory minimum sentences if an individual had two or more prior convictions for violent crime. It is not just the US president who has criticised the legislation – rival Democratic candidates including Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have also said it led to mass incarceration.  Another Democratic front runner, Bernie Sanders, also voted for the bill at the time and has defended his decision, saying he would otherwise be asked why he had voted against a ban on assault weapons. Some political commentators say Mr Biden will have to publicly acknowledge the bill’s failings to stand a chance with African American voters as well as the progressive base of the party. The former Vice President has alluded to the issue, telling an audience he hasn’t “always been right… but I’ve always tried”, during an event to mark Martin Luther King’s birthday in January. But he has remained silent on the bill since Mr Trump’s recent attacks.


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