Joe Biden set to unveil criminal justice reform plan

Posted at 3:02 PM, Jul 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-07 17:02:53-04

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.

1. Biden’s approach to criminal justice reform

From CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson:

Look for former Vice President Joe Biden to release a criminal justice reform plan in the coming weeks. Biden has met with Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Bobby Scott, of New York and Virginia, respectively, as well as criminal justice activists, to develop a plan that one campaign adviser said is research-based and will be among the most progressive of all the 2020 candidates.

The plan builds on some of the work that Scott has already done in Congress, seeking to curtail overcriminalization, reduce recidivism, and to create sentencing alternatives. Biden, of course, has backed away from aspects of the 1994 crime bill, which he spearheaded as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And this plan will likely try to correct aspects of that bill. There is internal discussion about how to release the plan, according to the campaign adviser — either with a speech or by video. The adviser also said there is discussion about when to release it, with some in the campaign pushing for a release before the next debate at the end of this month.

2. Harris vs. Warren

Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were widely seen as the big winners coming out of the first Democratic debate in Miami.

But while both are on the rise, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin says Democratic leaders and party insiders are gravitating to one in particular.

“Privately, at least, Kamala Harris is seen as more acceptable to the kind of Democratic establishment,” Martin said.

Harris has racked up a number of congressional endorsements in recent days, but she’s also caught the attention of lobbyists and prominent fundraisers.

“This is not the kind of thing that I think either candidate wants to dwell on at this moment now,” Martin said. “But you hear it quietly picking up” among party insiders as they weigh who has the best chance to win in the long term.

3. A trip abroad for Bernie Sanders? And other 2020 foreign policy plans

So far, the Democratic primary has been largely dominated by debates over domestic policy. But the AP’s Julie Pace reports that could be about to change.

“Some of the Democratic candidates are starting to brush up on their foreign policy credentials, well aware that national security issues could really pop to the forefront at a moment’s notice,” Pace said.

Among those efforts: Sen. Bernie Sanders is considering a trip abroad, Warren rolled out a plan to strengthen American diplomacy, and Harris is expanding her foreign policy team by bringing on a number of former Obama Administration officials.

One candidate eager for the debate to turn to the world stage? Biden.

“He comes in with much more experience on foreign policy than any of his other rivals,” Pace said, “and he really hopes to make that a centerpiece of not just the primary campaign, but he hopes a general election campaign against Trump.”

4. 2020 Democrats and executive orders

As they roll out policy goals on a number of issues, the Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich reports that Democratic candidates are increasingly willing to rely on executive orders to get them accomplished.

More and more Democrats “say they want executive actions or executive orders to solve some of the nation’s most intractable problems,” Kucinich said. “You’re seeing members of Congress, former members of Congress, introducing these measures that would bypass Congress.”

Candidates like Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Harris all have said they would take executive action on issues like immigration, abortion and guns. Kucinich said it’s a sign of the times.

“We don’t know how many of these proposals could become a thing should these individuals be elected,” Kucinich said. “But it is a sign of a lack of hope that these divisive issues could be solved on a bipartisan basis.

5. Cracks in Pelosi’s armor?

Pelosi is known for her ability to hold her unwieldy caucus together on tough issues, but recently she showed some cracks in her armor, as the Washington Post’s Rachael Bade reports.

“She had suffered her first major defeat on a border emergency package when she couldn’t get centrists and progressives in her party to back a bill,” Bade said. As a result, “she got railroaded by the Senate GOP version of the bill.”

The month ahead doesn’t look to be any easier. In July, she faces looming deadlines over defense funding, efforts to raise the minimum wage and the ongoing debate within her caucus over how to respond to the crisis at the border.

“Right now, her party is super divided on these issues and yet she needs to get them through,” Bade said. “Or Sen. McConnell, the majority leader, will have the upper hand in negotiations going forward.”