Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended his vote for the 1994 Crime Bill during a Tuesday afternoon appearance on “CNN Newsroom.”
Sanders explained to anchor Brooke Baldwin that while he realized that the bill contained “some very bad stuff,” he had to weight that against what he saw was ultimately a good thing — in that particular case, the ban on assault weapons.
Baldwin began by noting that even former President Bill Clinton, who signed that bill into law, thought in retrospect that it had gone too far and had a disproportionate impact on minorities. “My question is, do you regret that vote?” she asked. (RELATED: Trump Accuses DNC Of Trying To Oust Bernie Sanders Once Again)
Sanders initially tried to direct Baldwin to his YouTube channel, but she didn’t bite. “I’m looking at you now, senator,” she pressed.
“I voted for that bill because it included the Violence Against Women’s Act and it included a ban on assault weapons,” Sanders said, adding, “And Brooke, you would be asking me today, ‘Senator, why did you not vote for a ban on assault weapons —'”
“I’m asking you today if you regret your vote,” Baldwin pressed again.
“Sometimes you have legislation which includes very good stuff and very bad stuff,” Sanders explained further. “That legislation included very bad stuff. I had to make the choice whether I voted to ban assault weapons, something that I promised the people of Vermont I would, and I also had to vote to make sure that we had a Violence Against Women provision in there.”
Sanders went on to assert that he had, at the time, taken to the floor to warn that the bill could result in mass incarceration. He then pivoted, claiming that he was one of the leaders for criminal justice reform and doubling down on his promise to fight for voting rights for the incarcerated.
“We have got to make it clear if you are an American citizen and even if you do something bad, we can’t take away the right to vote, whether you are in jail or left jail,” Sanders argued, implying that Republicans opposed this plan on racial grounds rather than legal. “Clearly, what Republicans are doing is trying to deny people of color the right to vote and this is an issue I think we have to address head-on,” he concluded.
In spite of claiming that he had opposed some of its parts at the time, Sanders touted his support of the 1994 Crime Bill when he ran for Senate in 2006.
TIME.com reported in 2016:
During his 2006 campaign for Senate, Sanders appealed to Vermonters by touting his record on crime and pointing in particular to his support for the 1994 crime bill that former President Bill Clinton has been criticized for and since renounced. Sanders’ website during that race even touted his “strong record of supporting tough on crime legislation.”