Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday blamed Joe Biden for what he called a “failed” criminal justice system, dismissing the former vice president’s new plan to combat mass incarceration and escalating a weeks-long dispute between the pair.
“Joe Biden had more than 40 years to get this right,” he wrote. “The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it.”
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Booker had tweeted earlier Tuesday to criticize Biden’s proposal without directly naming the Democratic 2020 rival: “You created this system. We’ll dismantle it.”
Biden’s plan includes reforming the juvenile justice system, eliminating discrepancies in sentencing between convictions related to powder and crack cocaine, scrapping mandatory minimum sentences and ending the death penalty. Parts of the plan shift away from his previous stances as a tough-on-crime Democrat in the 1990s, a record that has drawn attacks from fellow candidates and progressives.
Booker has been a critic of Biden’s record. In the statement, he said that the 1994 crime bill Biden championed increased mass incarceration and “inflicted immeasurable harm” on black, brown and low-income communities.
“While it’s encouraging to see Vice President Biden finally come around to supporting many of the ideas I and others have proposed, his plan falls short of the transformative change our broken criminal justice system needs,” Booker wrote.
A comprehensive plan, he added, must include overhauling policing practices, using the presidential clemency power, reinvesting in communities most affected by mass incarceration and legalizing marijuana.
The Tuesday slam from the Booker campaign builds on the tension between the two presidential hopefuls. Last week, Booker said he was “stunned” it took Biden so long to apologize for the 1994 crime bill. He also condemned the vice president’s remarks about working with segregationist senators, and then he said he felt disrespected by Biden’s reaction to his criticism.
Booker was one of the first 2020 candidates to call for an apology over the comments about segregationists, and Biden reacted by saying the senator should apologize instead: “He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body.”
Biden and Booker will share the stage on the second night of the July Democratic debate. They will be accompanied by Sen. Kamala Harris, who launched a heated back-and-forth with Biden on busing and segregation during last month’s debate.