As the nation re-emerged from the pandemic, a complex picture of violent crime has emerged with it.[i] Republicans made crime the centerpiece of their election campaigns in the midterms, virtually ensuring that crime, policing, and public safety will continue to dominate the conversation as the 118th Congress convenes.
While all Americans yearn for safer communities, the two parties have differed on their approach to the issue. Where Democrats focused their energy during the last Congress on fundamentally redefining the relationship between law enforcement and communities (especially communities of color), Republicans in the new Congress could roll back those reforms and reinstate a more adversarial stance on policing.
During a press conference unveiling their policy platform, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) announced plans to hire 200,000 new police officers.[ii]
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and John Kennedy (R-LA) plan to support this priority by introducing a new grant program to enable additional hiring, as well provide technical support for necessities like rape kit processing.[iii]
The opioid crisis plays a role in this crackdown as well. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA-03) has said he intends to introduce a bill that would expand the US Department of Homeland Security’s authority to include investigating drugs and other controlled substances.[iv]
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are pushing a crime prevention agenda that includes additional resources for prosecuting white collar crime and bolsters support for law enforcement, seeming to move on from “defund the police” rhetoric and policies of the progressive wing of the party.
Key Issues In The 118th Congress
[i] Ames Grawert & Noah Kim, “Myths and Realities: Understanding Recent Trends in Violent Crime,” Brennan Center for Justice, July 12, 2022, available at https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/myths-and-realities-understanding-recent-trends-violent-crime.
[ii] “Leader McCarthy’s Op-Ed in the New York Post: It’s Time for the Commitment to America,” Office of US Representative Kevin McCarthy Press Release, September 23, 2022, available at https://www.republicanleader.gov/leader-mccarthys-op-ed-in-the-new-york-post-its-time-for-the-commitment-to-america/.
[iii] Jennifer Shutt, “U.S. Senate Republicans pan Democrats on crime, say they’ll introduce their own bill,” New Jersey Monitor, September 15, 2022, available at https://newjerseymonitor.com/2022/09/15/u-s-senate-republicans-pan-democrats-on-crime-say-theyll-introduce-their-own-bill/.
[iv] “Higgins Introduces Legislation to Combat Fentanyl, Drug Cartels,” Office of US Representative Clay Higgens Press Release, September 30, 2022, available at https://clayhiggins.house.gov/media/press-releases/higgins-introduces-legislation-combat-fentanyl-drug-cartels.