Election 2020

Tulsi Gabbard: Democrats in Congress Preferred People Rotting in Prison to Giving Trump a Win

Tulsi at the 2013 Civil Rights Luncheon. Source: AFGE / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

When speaking to a group of supporters, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard explained that hyperpartisanship has truly taken Washington, D.C., hostage. An example of this extremely troubling Washington culture, she said, was that some Democrats in Congress would rather have people needlessly sitting for years behind bars than help President Trump get criminal justice reform.

“A very practical thing that we need to address about the power of the two-party system,” Rep. Gabbard said, “and how hyperpartisan things have become, because those two parties basically can accept an unlimited amount of money from any individual, business, or whatever. And that creates an incredible amount of leverage for them to hold over members of Congress from both political parties, who may be looking at an issue or a vote that’s coming to the House floor based on its merits. Imagine that, thinking about, alright, well, how will this best impact my constituents? But if they’re thinking about voting against the party interest, then more often than not, they get the phone call or they get the tap on the shoulder on the House floor before the vote, saying, ‘Don’t you dare. If you vote against the party interest then when it’s time for your reelection and you need help, we’re not going to be there for you.'”

The contrast between the “unlimited amount of money” the parties can accept versus the $2,800 limit individual candidates can accept is rather stark. This “imbalance,” Gabbard said, even determines “what bills are brought to the floor for a vote.” The agendas that are set, she continues, “are really in the hands of just a couple of people of the party thats in charge.”

Of course, you have to wonder what the leadership of those parties consider “their interests.” Well, as Gabbard put it, “their number one goal is getting more power in the next election. And the day after the election, whether you’re the winning side or the losing side, you’re thinking about how do we grow our numbers.”

As a result, both parties refuse to vote for something that may “give those [other] guys a political win.” They don’t even look at the content of certain proposals; they’re automatically against it if it comes from a Republican or a Democrat (depending on their own party affiliation). “This is so heart-wrenching and disgusting on many levels,” Gabbard went on to say, “because the result and the impact of this is people suffer. People in this country suffer.”

That’s when Gabbard gave an example. “We were working on passage of the First Step Act,” she explained, which is “a criminal justice reform bill. It had support from very progressive members of Congress, people who call themselves progressives, people who call themselves conservatives. They’d reached a consensus, built a bill that wasn’t perfect, but it actually made progress towards prison reform and reducing high recidivism rates in prisons, helping people in their lives and also saving money in the process.”

But there was one major problem: prison reform was pushed by President Trump. “I’m not even kidding you,” Gabbard went on to say. “There are leaders in the House and the Senate who came out in opposition to this bill because they did not want to deliver a political win to Donald Trump. They’d rather leave people rotting in prison than deliver a win to Donald Trump, give him something that he could say that he accomplished.”

Disgusting. Or, as Gabbard herself put it: “It’s sickening.”

Follow me on Twitter: @GalienMichael.