Former Vice President Joe Biden said he "got stuck" writing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act because he was chair of Judiciary Committee at the time.
"I got stuck with it because I was the chairman of the judiciary committee, writing most of the drug legislation that occurred in that period," he said during a panel interview on Friday. "The big mistake was that I was buying into the idea that crack-cocaine was different than powdered cocaine and having penalties should be eliminated."
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The bill, which served as former President Bill Clinton's flagship drug reform, has come under fire from Black Lives Matter activists, who claim that it stoked racial tensions more than it solved crime problems. Biden's apology for the bill stands in contrast to comments from April 2016, when he defended it.
At the time, Biden said he was "not at all" ashamed of the bill, in an interview with CNBC.
"We talk about this mostly in terms of Black Lives Matter. Black lives really do matter, but the problem is institutional racism in America. That's the overarching problem that still exists. And we should be talking about it, and looking at the legacy of racism in housing and in jobs and so on," he said.
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also received criticism in 2016 for supporting the bill. She apologized to minority communities for the "impact" it had upon them, saying that she was "sorry for the consequences that were unintended," while speaking at a presidential debate in Brooklyn.
Biden's leading challenger in 2020 primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) supported the bill in 1994 as well. Sanders's campaign defended this support in 2016, saying that "it was a complicated piece of legislation that contained positive provisions like provisions to curb violence against women," according to the Wall Street Journal.