White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has been grilled about President Joe Biden’s history after he commented about “systemic racism”.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tersely cut off a line of questioning about criticism that President Joe Biden is himself guilty of feeding into what he’s decried as “systemic racism” in the United States.
In light of Mr Biden’s comments after ex-Minneapolis cop, Ms Psaki was asked about the President’s own role in establishing federal laws in the 1980s and ’90s that disproportionately jailed minorities.
“Well, I would say that the president’s — one of the president’s core objectives is addressing racial injustice in this country, not just through his rhetoric, but through his actions,” Ms Psaki said.
“And what anyone should look to is his advocacy for passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for nominating leaders to the Department of Justice to address long-outdated policies and to ask his leadership team here in the White House to prioritise these issues in his presidency, which is current and today and not from 30 years ago.”
Pressed further on whether Mr Biden believes that “it’s important to accept his own culpability for setting up the system,” Ms Psaki replied: “I think I’ve answered your question” and moved on to another reporter.
Mr Biden described the US as systemically racist in an address to the nation Tuesday night after the Chauvin verdict.
“It was a murder in the full light of day. And it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to,” Mr Biden said in an evening speech at the White House.
Mr Biden authored the 1994 crime law that imposed a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a third serious drug conviction — sending some people to prison for life for marijuana dealing.
The 78-year-old president was a staunch advocate of tough-on-crime legislation in the Senate before partially recanting his stance as a 2020 presidential candidate, while denying that his bills caused mass incarceration, particularly of racial minorities.
Activist and then-Harvard University professor Cornel West said during the presidential campaign, “Biden is going to have to take responsibility and acknowledge the contribution he made to something that was not a force for good.”
West said that Mr Biden’s 1994 crime law in particular contributed to mass incarceration and that he was upset the President chose to deny it.
“When he says it didn’t contribute to mass incarceration, I tell him he has to get off his symbolic crack pipe,” Mr West said.
The 1994 crime law imposed a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a third serious drug conviction — sending some people to prison for life for marijuana dealing.
That law also incentivised states to build more prisons.
In the 1980s, Mr Biden led the push for multiple harsh drug laws, including one that in 1986 imposed a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack cocaine, which was more commonly used by blacks, and powder cocaine, more often used by wealthy whites.
Ms Psaki also declined to say at the Wednesday briefing if Mr Biden will honour his campaign-trail pledge to release “everyone” in prison for marijuana.
Although Mr Biden can do so unilaterally by granting clemency, Ms Psaki said, “What you’re asking me is a legal question. I point you to the Department of Justice.”
She also fended off reporter questions about how Mr Biden can pass the policing reform bill named for Floyd George without compromise with Republicans, who are pushing a less-far-reaching bill authored by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).
The Democratic bill would ban chokeholds and do away with “qualified immunity” for law enforcement, among other reforms.
The Republican approach leans toward incentivising local police reforms rather than mandating them. Sixty votes generally are required for bills to pass the Senate, meaning bipartisan compromise is needed to pass most major bills.
Ms Psaki said that Mr Biden was open to supporting the outcome of negotiations on a final policing package and that he doesn’t support using budget reconciliation rules that allow for a bare majority in the Senate.
“His view is that the conversation right now should be should not be focused on reconciliation, so we focus on finding a bipartisan path forward,” Ms Psaki said, adding “of course” there’s room for negotiations that deviate from the current Floyd bill.
“This is going to be a discussion. And a lot of the conversations right now, as you know from covering this, are happening between Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker and like Sen. Tim Scott. And they’re going to have to decide where they can find agreement moving forward,” Ms Psaki said.
This story was published by theand was republished with permission.