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Political Notebook

Biden, scrutinized for crime bill, unveils plan to reduce mass incarceration

As a senator, Joe Biden backed the 1994 crime bill.
As a senator, Joe Biden backed the 1994 crime bill. Associated Press

Joe Biden, whose long record on criminal justice matters has cast a shadow over the early months of his presidential campaign, has unveiled a comprehensive plan aimed at combating mass incarceration and reducing “racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system.”

In his more than three decades as a senator, Biden was a tough-on-crime Democrat who could be impatient with concerns about the societal dynamics that contribute to crime, and he championed the 1994 crime bill that many experts now associate with mass incarceration.

That history has presented a challenge for Biden as he mounts his third bid for the presidency, with many progressives questioning his commitment to reforming a criminal justice system that disproportionately ensnares people of color.


But Tuesday, Biden, the former vice president, introduced a wide-ranging criminal justice reform proposal that his campaign said sought to reduce incarceration, and the toll it takes on poor communities and communities of color, at every stage, from addressing “underlying factors” that start as early as childhood to calling for the elimination of the death penalty.

Biden’s proposal includes plans to address societal dynamics that affect children and are linked with crime and future incarceration, along with a heavy emphasis on reforming the juvenile justice system.

In proposals that would aim to reverse the legacies of the 1994 crime bill, Biden called for eliminating discrepancies in sentencing between powder and crack cocaine and for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing. He also called for an end to cash bail.

And the plan supports eliminating the death penalty through legislation at the federal level and incentives at the state level, a position that is a sharp departure from the position that Biden vocally embraced in the 1990s and throughout his Senate career.

New York Times

Coal magnate to host Trump fund-raiser; miners seek aid

Coal magnate Robert Murray will host a fund-raiser for President Trump Wednesday, even as dozens of disabled miners pressure Congress to restore a higher tax on the fossil fuel that pays for treatment of black lung disease.


Murray, a longtime Trump benefactor and the chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., is hosting the event at the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, W. Va. A spokesperson for the company confirmed event details but did not answer questions about who else was attending and the expected cash haul.

The miners from Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia were in Washington Tuesday trying to persuade lawmakers to revive a tax of up to $1.10 per ton of coal that helps pay for medical care of black lung disease, amid a resurgence in the respiratory ailment caused by inhaling coal dust.

Congress last year let that tax rate lapse and revert to 1977 levels of up to 50 cents per ton, after industry leaders argued the expense could further disadvantage coal.

Bloomberg News

Sanders campaign workers agree on pay raise plan

WASHINGTON — Unionized organizers for the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders approved a pay raise proposal from management late Monday, following a tense internal standoff in which employees had argued they were not being paid the wages Sanders advocates in his rhetoric.

Sanders confirmed the deal in an interview Tuesday on CNN, saying he was ‘‘happy to tell you . . . that offer was just accepted.’’ Details of the plan were not immediately known.

The arrangement came after organizers battled Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir for higher salaries. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that campaign employees had argued to Shakir that the compensation levels did not meet the principles Sanders advocates, invoking his campaign speeches as they made their case.


It was unclear whether the changes would satisfy most of the field organizers for the long run, or whether future tensions would arise with management. It also was unclear what if any role Sanders played in the process and when he first learned about the dispute.

Washington Post

Trump says he has ‘rightto do whatever I want’

Donald Trump believes being president means he has the right to do what whatever he wants. That’s the message he delivered — not for the first time — on Tuesday while addressing a crowd of teenagers and young adults at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington.

‘‘Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,’’ he said.

Trump appears to be discussing Article II of the Constitution, which at no point indicates that the president has the power to what he or she chooses.

Speaking to ABC in June about allegations that he wanted to fire Robert Mueller, the president said, ‘‘Article II allows me to do whatever I want.”

Washington Post