Senate Republicans introduced a broad package to clarify and strengthen violent crime laws related to homicide, bank robbery, carjacking, kidnapping and other offenses.
Led by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, 23 GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber proposed the Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act.
The bill resolves discrepancies brought on by conflicting court decisions and clarifies congressional intent regarding crimes of violence and their respective penalties.
The legislation is supported by several law enforcement organizations, including the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the National Sheriffs Association.
Among other provisions, the bill clarifies that attempted bank robbery and conspiracy to commit bank robbery are punishable under the current bank robbery statute.
It abolishes an outdated rule prohibiting perpetrators of violent crime from being charged with murder if the victim succumbs to injuries sustained by that violent crime 366 days after the attack.
The bill also rectifies conflicting circuit court decisions that have resulted in a higher burden to charge offenses like assaulting a police officer than Congress intended.
The proposed legislation increases the statutory maximum penalty for carjacking and removes a duplicative intent requirement needed to charge a carjacking offense.
The bill also rectifies conflicting circuit court decisions by clarifying that an attempt or conspiracy to commit an offense involving physical force meets the legal definition of a crime of violence.
It also outlaws the marketing of candy-flavored drugs to minors and establishes a new category of violent kidnapping offenses, allowing for greater penalties for violent kidnapping.
No Democratic senators have agreed to cosponsor the legislation.
“Crime is skyrocketing in communities across the country. Carjackings, homicides, attacks on law enforcement are all up. We have a duty to ensure that penalties for federal offenses serve as a deterrent and that any ambiguity from split court decisions is rectified so that perpetrators can be held accountable,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement.
“This bill includes a number of small fixes that will go a long way in improving justice and preventing future crimes. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have bipartisan support to advance these modest, but meaningful, reforms. American communities are suffering under a scourge of lawlessness, so I hope we get some cooperation soon and I’ll keep reaching across the aisle to get it.”
Although Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, is unlikely to allow the bill to come to the Senate floor for a vote, the increase in violent crime across the country has ramped up pressure on swing-state Democrats on the ballot this fall to get tougher on law-and-order issues.
Murder rates rose 30% in 2020 and continued climbing in 2021, and carjackings, particularly in urban areas, are increasing with some cities showing up to 400% spikes.
Overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 last year, with fentanyl appearing in various substances, including candy-flavored drugs targeted at children. 2021 marked the deadliest year for law enforcement since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.