AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
Late last week, in a highly unusual move, a group of 30 “moderate” House Democrats penned a letter to Democratic leadership urging them to bring forward several pieces of legislation that would increase funding for law enforcement “no later than when Congress returns from the July 4 district work period.” The letter threatens to further fracture an already deeply divided Democratic caucus, and is the clearest sign yet from these swing district Democrats of just how vulnerable they believe they are this fall as crime remains a top concern for voters.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), a top Republican target this fall, organized the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) which was signed by other vulnerable Democrats like Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, and Cindy Axne of Iowa. Specifically, the group is demanding a floor vote on four pieces of legislation that would boost funding for equipment and training for law enforcement, as well as enable local police departments to hire more officers in the wake of a drastic shortage of police in many American cities.
“As we have over the last two years, we continue to hear from our constituents who are extremely concerned about the rising level of crime in the country,” the letter reads. “There are a number of bipartisan bills supporting increased resources for police departments and officers that we believe should be considered as standalone legislation by the House.”
The group of letter signers takes aim at the House Judiciary Committee specifically, writing that the Committee “has made clear to several members that it has no intention of bringing any law enforcement bills through the markup process.” Notably, the Judiciary Committee is chaired by high-profile Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York and includes Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal – one of the most ardent supporters of the far-left push to “reimagine” policing. “Therefore,” the letter continues, “we implore you [House Democratic leadership] to please use your power to bring these bills to the floor for up or down votes… so that every member can be on the record and their constituents can know where they stand.”
Such hostile rhetoric threatens to open up yet another fault line within the Democratic caucus as the party’s prospects for November look more and more dire. Moreover, the letter makes clear that this group of Democrats understands the lasting political harm that progressives’ support for the “Defund the Police” movement and push for radical criminal justice “reform” has had on the Democratic brand, particularly as crime rates continue to spike throughout the country.
However, while the group of Democrats who signed on to the letter are clearly hoping to appear as though they are concerned about rising crime, they also run the risk of coming across as though they are only concerned about crime because they have a tough re-election battle looming. After all, many of these same Democrats stayed largely silent for the past two years as the progressive left waged an all-out crusade on law and order. Now, an attempt by those same Democrats to boost funding for police may seem to be nothing more than an eleventh-hour attempt to solve a problem that they themselves created – a ploy that is unlikely to fool many voters.
It also remains to be seen if anything will come of the letter’s demands. As evidenced by a range of examples, from the infrastructure bill to efforts to pass a China competition bill, Congressional progressives are not afraid to torpedo bipartisan legislative efforts if they run too far afoul of progressive orthodoxy. Disdain for law enforcement remains a core tenet of progressivism, and radicals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Cori Bush (D-MO) have shown no intention of softening on the issue simply for the sake of helping endangered incumbents remain in office.
Moreover, even if House Democratic Leadership does bring law enforcement funding bills to the floor, and even if Pelosi can keep House progressives in line and pass the legislation, that still won’t do much to change the widespread and growing public perception that Democrats are soft on crime. After years of undermining the ability of police to do their job, Democrats are unlikely to be able to simply flip a switch four months before an election and erase their woeful record on public safety.
Finally beginning to address the crime problem also won’t do anything to alleviate the slew of other crises that Americans are facing thanks to failed Democrat policies. For example, while increasing the number of police officers and providing for more police training and equipment is a good start toward restoring law and order, it must also be coupled with a commitment to stopping the flow of drugs and crime coming across the Southern border – something even moderate Democrats have been unwilling to push for. And of course, even if Democrats could magically stop all crime by November, that still wouldn’t do anything to alleviate record-high inflation and gas prices eating into the savings of American families.
This latest attempt by vulnerable Democrats to boost their moderate credentials ahead of the midterms may thus ultimately prove to be just another doomed attempt to convince voters to forget the record of failure and radicalism that has defined Democrats’ reign over the past two years.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_
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