Jul 12, 2019

Kamala Harris proposes $1 billion plan to eliminate rape kit backlogs

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE

Kamala Harris unveiled a $1 billion plan on Thursday to fully eliminate states' rape kit backlogs if elected president.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits are estimated to be sitting around in police stations around the U.S.

By the numbers: The proposed $1 billion would not only aid states to analyze their backlogged rape kits within four years, but also help them implement a plan to prevent untested kits from accumulating en masse in the future.

  • Harris' program would cost approximately $100 million annually, though her team didn't share details on how she would pay for it.
  • One rape kit costs about $1,000 to $1,500 to test, per End The Backlog.

Between the lines: Under this plan, states can either ask for federal funding to process the rape kits on their own or work directly with the FBI to eliminate the backlog.

  • They'll also be required to do things like report the number of untested rape kits annually; implement a "short time frame" for submitting and testing new samples; make these kits available statewide, even in remote areas; track rape kits; and give patients the option to be updated on the status of their rape kit processing.

As California’s attorney general, Harris implemented a program to clear a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits around the state. "We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable," she said in a statement.

The big picture: Don't expect this to become a dominant issue in the 2020 presidential election — unless candidates start addressing it themselves on the national debate stage.

  • Earlier this year, Joe Biden, who wrote the first rape kit backlog law, tweeted: "An untested rape kit means a survivor without justice. ... [T]esting kits can identify men who have committed multiple rapes — and might again. Test every kit. Every single one."
  • There have been zero questions asked about policies to address sexual harassment at presidential primary debates between 1996-2016, per a Time's Up study.

Go deeper: Kamala Harris on the issues, in under 500 words

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Biden and Harris meet on-stage on July 31, 2019. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden greeted Sen. Kamala Harris on the debate stage Wednesday with a request: "Go easy on me, kid."

For the record: 5 senior campaign officials told Axios' Alexi McCammond that Biden was "ready to throw down" on Wednesday, after Harris' took control at the first Democratic debates in Miami. Harris and Biden went head-to-head tonight on these issues:

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DETROIT, Mich. — The biggest lesson Joe Biden learned from the first debate is that there are no rules of engagement at these things, and he's ready to throw down at tonight's debate, according to five senior campaign officials.

What to watch: Yes, he's going to keep contrasting himself with President Trump. But he's squarely focused on Sen. Kamala Harris, too, after the first debate in Miami.

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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The overwhelming strategy may have been “Kill Biden” for the second night of CNN’s Democratic debates, but the former vice president came far more prepared to fend off his critics on Wednesday night than he was in June.

The big picture: Kamala Harris picked up right where she left off at last month's debates, attacking Biden early and often for upholding the status quo with his health care plan — pivoting back to Biden even when asked to respond to comments made by other candidates. But it was clear that Biden did his homework, deflecting attacks with moderate success from Harris, Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and others who came armed with opposition research.

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