Joe Biden in 2007: ‘It was the Biden Crime Bill that became the Clinton Crime Bill’

Former Vice President Joe Biden boasted at a 2007 Democratic presidential debate that the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act originated as the “Biden crime bill” before it became known as the “Clinton crime bill.”

The remarks, made during Biden’s second White House bid in October 2007, came as the then-senator from Delaware rebuked former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was seeking the Republican presidential nomination at the time.

{mosads}“He is genuinely not qualified to be president,” Biden said. “Here’s a man who brags about how he made the city safe. It was the Biden crime bill that became the Clinton crime bill that allowed him to do that.”

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed with bipartisan support in 1994 and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, who had pushed for the legislation. At the time, Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and played a crucial role in passing the bill.

In recent years, however, criminal justice reform advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have blamed the legislation for contributing to mass incarceration in the U.S. Clinton apologized in 2015 for signing the bill, saying that doing so made mass incarceration “worse.”

The comments underscore a political reality for Biden: Over a 36-year career in the Senate, he racked up a legislative record at times out of step with more-current Democratic positions, including on issues such as criminal justice reform.

Several Democratic presidential contenders have spoken out against the bill, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who on Sunday called for Biden to be “held accountable” for his role in the crime bill’s passage.

President Trump dinged Biden over the 1994 bill on Monday, suggesting that the former vice president’s role in passing the legislation made him unelectable. He also contrasted Biden’s record with his own, pointing to his signing of the First Step Act last year, which reduces certain mandatory minimum sentences, among other reforms.

“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!”

A spokesperson for Biden’s presidential campaign did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. But the former vice president has previously defended his role in the bill’s passage and has pushed back on the notion that it resulted in mass incarceration.

He has said that mass incarceration has been primarily driven by individual states setting mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug-related and nonviolent crimes.

“Folks, let’s get something straight,” Biden said earlier this month in New Hampshire. “This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration — it did not generate mass incarceration.”

Tags 1994 crime bill 2020 election Bill Clinton Bill de Blasio Criminal justice reform Democratic primary Donald Trump Joe Biden Pete Buttigieg Rudy Giuliani

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