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Thune: Democrats’ Soft-on-Crime Policies Are Making Communities Less Safe

“People speak negatively about criminal penalties or overpolicing, but they don’t talk about the victims of violent crimes and what it’s like to live in a place where you fear for your safety.”

March 8, 2023

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today condemned Democrats’ soft-on-crime policies and anti-law-enforcement rhetoric that can have a negative effect on law and order and law enforcement morale and recruitment. Thune noted that when lawmakers put politics over public safety, communities suffer and are less safe.  

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, on the last weekend in February, eight men were fatally shot in Washington, D.C.


“Eight men.


“On a single weekend.


“It was a tragic illustration of the current crime situation in our nation’s capital.


“Homicides in Washington, D.C, which had already reached disturbing heights in 2021 and 2022, are up 33 percent so far this year compared to this point a year ago.


“We are just 67 days into 2023, but so far this year there have been 101 carjackings – motor vehicle thefts where the victim is present – 66 percent of them involving guns.


“There have been a staggering 1,258 motor vehicle thefts to date this year.




“That is an average of roughly 19 motor vehicle thefts every day. 


“Nineteen thefts.


“Every day.


“Mr. President, in the face of the crime surge D.C. has been experiencing for a while now, the D.C. city council recently decided to pass legislation … weakening penalties for a number of crimes.


“The bill the council passed late last year would reduce the maximum penalty for crimes like carjacking, robbery, and firearm offenses.


“Remove mandatory minimum sentences for all crimes except first-degree murder.


“Clog up the court system by substantially expanding access to trial by jury to individuals charged with misdemeanors.


“And more.


“Mr. President, later today we will be taking up legislation here in the Senate to block the bill.


“Congress, of course, has the legal authority to block D.C. ordinances thanks to federal legislation rooted in the Constitution, which gives Congress legislative jurisdiction over the seat of the U.S. government – namely, Washington, D.C.


“And it looks like today’s vote will receive strong support from both parties.


“Mr. President, that certainly was not looking like it would be the case a week ago.


“Last month, the Biden administration issued a statement opposing the move to block D.C.’s crime bill.


“When the House took up the measure, 82 percent of House Democrats voted against blocking the D.C. bill.


“But last week the president changed his tune.


“He announced that he would not veto the attempt to block the D.C. bill.


“And since then Senate Democrats have been lining up to announce that they will vote to block D.C.’s measure.


“Mr. President, I am pleased that Democrats have recognized that weakening criminal penalties is not the way to address D.C.’s crime surge.


“Blocking D.C.’s crime bill will be a victory for common sense – and for the people of D.C., who deserve a safe city in which to live.


“But while I am pleased at the expected outcome of today’s vote, I remain deeply concerned about how we got here.


“How have we gotten to the point where some people think that an appropriate response to a surge in crime is to weaken criminal penalties?  To a point where ideology has overtaken common sense, to the detriment of public safety?


“Well, I think part of the answer lies in the deeply troubling surge in anti-law-enforcement rhetoric over the past few years – and the accommodation of it by members of the Democrat Party.


“There has been talk of defunding our most essential public servants, the police.


“Characterization of our justice system as fundamentally unjust.


“An attitude that the answer to crime is not to try to stop it from taking place, but to stop punishing criminals.


“And the Democrat Party has been deeply complicit in this.


“One leading Democrat senator – and Democrat presidential candidate – had this to say a few years ago: “Let’s just start with the hard truth about our criminal justice system.  It’s racist.  It is.  And when I say our system, I mean all the way.  I mean front to back.”


“And she’s not the only prominent Democrat who has spoken that way.


“Many other Democrats, of course, have not been that explicit.


“But they have tried to have it both ways, attempting to say they support the police on one hand while also accommodating the radical elements of their party that want to tear down our justice system and demonize not just a few bad police officers but a whole community of public servants who put their lives on the line for us every day.


“President Biden is a striking example of this.


“As his about-face on the D.C. crime bill makes clear, he’s eager to portray himself as a supporter of law and order – especially, I assume, given that polling has made it clear that Americans are deeply concerned about crime.


“But at the same time that he’s trying to portray himself as anti-crime, he is nominating individuals to serve in his administration who have engaged in anti-police rhetoric. 


“The president can’t have it both ways.


“And his attempt – and Democrats’ attempt – to do so has helped a troubling anti-law-enforcement, anti-justice-system narrative to gain hold in our communities.


“Mr. President, one thing I always think about when I hear anti-law-enforcement rhetoric is how little attention is paid to the victim.


“People speak negatively about criminal penalties or overpolicing, but they don’t talk about the victims of violent crimes and what it’s like to live in a place where you fear for your safety.


“As D.C.’s mayor recently said, ‘We have to think about victims of crime as much as we think about perpetrators.’ 


“And, I would argue, more than we think about perpetrators.


“But too often the focus of discussions is almost entirely on perpetrators, with little attention being paid to the victims of crime, or the consequences of tolerating criminal activity.


“As the D.C. police chief recently said of D.C.’s bill, “Where’s the victim in all of this?  Who does this actually help?  Is the victim being helped, or is it the person who victimizes?  I don’t think victims win in that space.  And again, that’s a non-starter for me.”


“Mr. President, bills like the D.C. city council’s bill should be a non-starter for everyone.


“And Democrat politicians need to stop accommodating the kind of ideology that thinks reducing criminal penalties is an appropriate response to crime.


“I am thankful that later today we will vote to block legislation that would endanger D.C. residents and visitors.


“And I hope that this vote will mark a return to common sense as we work to battle crime in D.C. and around the country.


“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”