Joe Biden is now the first President in American history to openly opposes the death penalty.
Biden has now become the first U.S. president to publicly oppose the death penalty, despite having risen through national politics by championing policies that expanded the use of capital punishment. As a senator from Delaware, he championed the 1994 omnibus crime bill by proudly observing, “It provides 53 death penalty offenses. … We do everything but hang people for jaywalking in this bill.” During the 2020 election, every single Democratic candidate was an abolitionist, including Biden [Slate].
But Biden’s position is no guarantee that the federal death penalty will end under his watch. To do so requires legislation passed by Congress, which will depend on sustained pressure on lawmakers from the White House and constituents. Still, there’s plenty the president can do on his own. Death penalty opponents are calling on Biden to announce an immediate pause on federal executions and death sentences — and to commute the sentences of those who are already on death row.
The Biden administration has declined to answer questions about the president’s willingness to commute federal death sentences, but pressure is mounting on him to do so. Since his inauguration, 37 members of Congress and a group of nearly 100 current and former prosecutors, attorneys general, law enforcement officials and judges have called on the administration to commute the sentences of those 49 people on federal death row [HuffPost].
ARTICLE: OWEN LEE BRZDEK
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: MARK MAKELA/GETTY IMAGES