Over twenty years ago, Vice President Joe Biden, then a Senator, wrote the “Crime Bill” signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Now as Biden faces a decision on launching a Presidential campaign, chickens may be coming home to roost over the controversial legislation.
Undoubtedly, the issue could be a huge headache for Biden if he can’t smooth things over with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The group is known for unconventional tactics, most notably when they rudely crashed an event from Biden’s fellow Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders – the group forced him off stage and took over his rally, denying Sanders the chance to speak to the crowd.
Hillary Clinton has also faced the #BlackLivesMatter movement, caught on camera in a discussion with activists from the group. It wasn’t Clinton’s best moment, and at one point she even says she will “only talk to white people” because of the group’s insistence on whites being the cause of racial problems in the U.S.
The “Crime Bill” was once hailed as one of Bill Clinton’s biggest accomplishments, but the increase in incarceration that resulted because of it, especially in minority communities, has created a significant backlash.
Clinton has expressed regrets over the bill: “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said, according to The New York Times. “And I want to admit it.”
Biden has doubled down.
Despite reservations, Mr. Biden, who has served as the Obama administration’s unofficial liaison to the law enforcement community, has not only stood by the 1994 legislation, but has also frequently taken credit for it. As recently as this spring, in an essay on community policing for a book of bipartisan reform proposals put together by the Brennan Center for Justice, Mr. Biden referred to the legislation as the “1994 Biden Crime Bill.”
Mr. Clinton wrote in a foreword to the book that “our nation has too many people in prison and for too long — we have overshot the mark.” Mr. Biden, in contrast, stressed the success of the bill’s community policing measures, which he said had achieved their goals before funding was cut.
And in an interview with Time magazine in February 2014, he said, “I am not only the guy who did the crime bill and the drug czar, but I’m also the guy who spent years when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of [the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] trying to change drug policy relative to cocaine, for example, crack and powder.”
With Biden expressing significant support for the bill as recently as last year, there is little doubt that #BlackLivesMatter will give the Vice President plenty of hell over the issue. The question for Biden if he jumps in the race must be, how do I prevent further drama with #BlackLivesMatter and subsequently, cut in to Hillary Clinton’s strong support base within the black community?
Even with the “Crime Bill” and “Welfare to Work,” Bill Clinton is enormously popular in the black community and is a powerful surrogate for Hillary’s campaign. Remember, before Obama, Clinton was “the first black president.” Though some recent polls put the Vice President’s favorable opinion rating as higher than any candidate in either party, Biden has a long way to go before he can cut into Hillary Clinton’s support base among black voters. Biden is capable of winning them over, but if he panders to #BlackLivesMatter or other controversial entities, he could damage his overall brand. It will be interesting to see how Biden balances the issue if he decides to jump in.
Read more about the “Crime Bill” HERE.
“The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355, Pub.L. 103–322 is an act of Congress dealing with crime and law enforcement that became law in 1994. It is the largest crime bill in the history of the United States, consisting of 356 pages providing for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs which were designed with significant input from experienced police officers. Sponsored by U.S. Representative Jack Brooks of Texas, the bill was originally written by Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, passed byCongress, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.”