Sanders’ Support for the 1994 Crime Bill Was Greater than He Would Like You To Believe

Sanders’ Support for the 1994 Crime Bill Was Greater than He Would Like You To Believe


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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While Joe Biden has steadily taken criticism for the massive 1994 anti-crime law, one of Biden’s top rivals for the 2020 presidential nomination has been carefully concealing the full extent of his support for the measure, according to an MSNBC reporter.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ backing for the crime bill now appears more fulsome than he has let on in recent years as the Vermont independent has mounted two progressively powered runs for the presidency.

Although largely popular at the time, the more punitive aspects of the 1994 legislation have always been controversial. That controversy only has grown in recent years–particularly among politically progressive Americans–as impacts of the law have disproportionately affected African American communities.

Biden certainly can’t hide from his role in the crime bill, given that at the time he was a chief architect as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sanders, however, was the largely anonymous sole congressman from the small, rural state of Vermont in just his second two-year term.

Today, as he challenges presidential front-runner Biden for the Democratic nomination from the progressive left, Sanders limits his public statements on the crime bill is that he really only supported it because it had the assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women’s act attached to it, according to MSNBC reporter Heidi Przybyla.

“However, I did go back to 1994 and look into the congressional record, and this is really just reflective of the party at the time [and] I’m not saying Bernie Sanders was any different than many Democrats, including those in the CBC,” Przybyla said, referring to the Congressional Black Caucus by its acronym.

The CBC had public misgivings about how the law would effect African Americans, even at the time the legislation was up for debate. CBC members fought for changes in the bill and many ultimately voted for passage.

“However, he did say in August of 1994, ‘On balance, its positive initiatives to control crime outweigh the negatives,’ that he supported many of these things,” Przybyla said of a younger Rep. Bernie Sanders.

“I saw coverage back in Burlington of him supporting the hiring, for instance, of more cops, voting for at least once an amendment to increase prison funding,” Przybyla added. “He, like many Democrats of the time, saw this as a good compromise at the time when the nation was facing a big crime epidemic, the crack cocaine epidemic. And Bernie fought for things in here to make this a better bill.”

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