For President Biden, today’s announcement on gun crime prevention is the latest chapter in its long, politically complicated history with crime legislation. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden helped draft the 1994 Crime Bill, which was enacted by President Bill Clinton.
“A guy named Biden wrote this bill and he wrote this bill while sitting down with the President of the United States of America,” Biden said, bragging about the legislation during a speech. in the Senate at the time.
In the 1990s, the tough stance against crime was seen as a valuable accomplishment for Biden, who warned of “predators on our streets” who were “beyond pallor.”
Yet a quarter of a century later, his warm embrace of Clinton at a signing ceremony in Rose Garden for the 1994 Crime Bill sparked controversy during his 2020 presidential primary. Several candidates, including Kamala Harris, then an opponent, criticized Biden for his role in the legislation, which she and other critics say has led to an era of mass incarceration.
Biden dismissed these criticisms from his party’s progressive base, reminding voters that the controversial crime bill at the time was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus and several of the country’s top black mayors. At the same time, he played down his role in passing the law, saying he was “stuck” in the job because he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Today, the policy of crime legislation is less certain.
A movement for “Defund the Police” has lost its vigor considerably within the Democratic Party as crime rates rise across the country. Biden has always opposed such measures – and avoided such language – by refusing to accept criticism from progressives during his presidential race.
Meanwhile, local law enforcement officials began to put more emphasis on community intervention programs to prevent violence, moving away from the law enforcement style Biden enshrined in law. helped adopt.
“We need to do a better job of… not repeating the mistakes of the past, where we believe the best way to solve violent crime is to get out and arrest people for low-level crimes, creating this epidemic of violence. Mass incarceration we are trying to manage, ”said Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Shon Barnes. “This is just not the way to handle violent crime in America. “
“I believe we need to start partnering with other people in our community, and sometimes the police need to step back and allow some of our civic groups, some of our entities in municipal government to take the lead and we play a supporting role. The idea is to prevent crime, not just respond to it, ”Barnes told CNN.
While Biden’s views and criminal background did little to prevent him from winning the primary and general election campaigns, they now present a new test for the White House in its quest to avoid deep schisms within the Party. democrat.
Republicans, in their effort to gain control of the House and Senate next year, are already grappling with the issue of crime. Party officials believe this is one of the strongest arguments for winning back suburban voters, especially women, who abandoned the GOP in the Trump era.
“Democrats from top to bottom in the ballot did everything in their power to subvert law enforcement,” said Mike Berg, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee of Congress this week. “Voters will hold Democrats accountable for their pro-crime policies. “