“The bill he talks about is a bill that in my — our administration, we passed. We passed that bill that you added onto. That’s the bill, in fact, you passed.”
— Former vice president Joe Biden to Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
Biden appeared to claim that the First Step Act, signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018, was merely an add-on to a bill passed during the Obama administration. The law was a bipartisan project, led by senators such as Booker, which overhauled federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws as well as some aspects of the federal prison system. It was intended to address problems identified in the 1994 crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton and long championed by then-Sen. Biden as the “Biden Crime bill.”
Booker looked at Biden with disbelief, and it’s easy to see why. A Biden aide said he was referring to a 2010 law passed under President Barack Obama that addressed the “100-1” rule, so named because it required a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking in 500 grams of powder cocaine or five grams of crack. The 2010 law narrowed it to 18-1, and the First Step Act made it retroactive.
But the First Step Act was a much broader piece of legislation — far more than an add-on to the 2010 law.