Former vice president Joe Biden’s role in passing the 1994 crime bill has come under new scrutiny from both sides of the aisle, earning rebukes from President Trump as well as his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, said he got “stuck” writing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which critics say contributed to mass incarceration that disproportionately affected black communities. The bill resulted in 100,000 additional police officers and $14 billion community policing grants.
In 2015, President Bill Clinton apologized for signing the bill, saying it “made the problem worse.”
President Trump, a fixture of New York society at the time, lambasted Biden over the bill on Monday. New York was granted more than $216 million under the bill and in the next six years added more than 12,000 prison beds and incarcerated 28 percent more New Yorkers.
“Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, and helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!”
“Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing,” the president continued. “That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!”
Biden pushed back earlier this month against the notion that the bill was responsible for more incarceration, saying “it did not generate mass incarceration.”
“The mass incarceration occurred by the states setting mandatory sentences,” he said. “What happened is, if you go back and look, the black caucus supported the bill.”
He did say, however, that the bill included mistakes.
“The big mistake was that I was buying into the idea that crack-cocaine was different than powdered cocaine and having penalties should be eliminated,” Biden said.
Another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, said this month that she disagrees with the former vice president and that the legislation “did contribute to mass incarceration in our country.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed, saying that the bill is “one of the foundations of mass incarceration in a very painful era in our nation’s history.”
“The vice president and anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take and what’s on their record. I think that was a huge mistake,” de Blasio said.