Senate

Garland commits to combatting systemic racism

Merrick Garland, President Biden’s pick for attorney general, repeatedly committed to addressing and combatting systemic racism and racial disparities within the country’s justice system during his confirmation hearing on Monday.

Asked about the importance of a new voting rights bill that would restore the federal pre-clearance measure that was revoked by the Supreme Court in 2013, Garland espoused his support for a new formula for the oversight.

“Voting is … the fulcrum of our democracy, so any legislation that will encourage more voting, I strongly support,” Garland said. “The [Supreme] Court indicated that a different and stronger record might support preclearance, and I would be in favor of — if I’m confirmed — working with the [Senate Judiciary] Committee and the Senate and the House to try and develop that record that would allow that important tool to be used.”

Garland also spoke to the racial disparities of the justice system when it comes to the death penalty, something that returned on the federal level at the end the Trump presidency.

“I have had great pause about the death penalty,” Garland said. “The data is clear that it has an enormously disparate impact on Black Americans and members of communities of color.”

Democrats lambasted the department during former President Trump’s term, claiming that former Attorney General William Barr politicized the justice system, destroying its integrity. Additionally, during Trump’s presidency, the scope of Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division was narrowed, something that Democrats want changed.

Garland was asked by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) about the calls from progressives to defund law enforcement, a policy that was amplified by police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd last year that led to nationwide unrest and protests.

Like Biden, Garland said that he doesn’t support defunding the police, but does support greater accountability, saying that it was “essential.”

He also noted the need for communities to have greater resources to use “alternative ways of confronting some actors, particularly those who are mentally ill and those who are suicidal.”

Later, Garland became emotional when discussing the need for greater racial equity with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“My grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. This country took us in and protected us. I feel an obligation to the country to pay back — and this is the highest and best of my own set of skills to pay back,” Garland said, choking up multiple times. “I very much want to be the kind of attorney general you’re saying I could become.”

Garland told Booker there’s “no question that there’s disparate treatment in our justice system,” highlighting the U.S.’s mass incarceration problem.

Much of what Garland, a one-time nominee for the Supreme Court, said Monday fits with Biden’s commitment to advancing racial equity throughout every aspect of the federal government.

Tags anti-semitism Cory Booker death penalty Department of Justice Donald Trump Joe Biden Josh Hawley Merrick Garland systemic racism voting rights William Barr

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