Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for an end to the death penalty on Thursday, laying out his case in a Senate floor speech just one day after Hillary Clinton—the party's 2016 frontrunner and Sanders' main rival for the nomination—said she was opposed to abolishing the practice.
"We are all shocked and disgusted by some of the horrific murders that we see in this country, seemingly every week," he said Thursday. "And that is precisely why we should abolish the death penalty. At a time of rampant violence and murder, the state should not be part of that process."
Sanders added that he'd rather "stand side-by-side with European democracies rather than countries like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others who maintain the death penalty."
Sanders' position may come as welcome alternative to Democratic primary voters disappointed by Clinton's more equivocal stance. At a campaign event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Clinton said that she is opposed to getting rid of capital punishment, though she emphasized that the death penalty "has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way" in the United States.
The invective on capital punishment is the latest in a series of major policy moves for Sanders, setting up yet another contrast with the party's more moderate heir apparent. On Wednesday, he announced his support for removing marijuana from the federal government's list of outlawed drugs, saying that states should be allowed to regulate the substance as they please. He's not pushing to completely legalize weed, per se—in states where it remained illegal, federal authorities could still arrest and prosecute dealers—but those who smoked pot would no longer be subject to federal prosecution for possession.
Sanders also met with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday, cozying up to the vice president at a meeting where the two reportedly discussed campaign finance reform and college affordability.
Photo via Flickr user Peter Stevens
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