The Illinois Senate voted 32-25 to abolish the death penalty today. The bill almost didn’t make it to the Senate floor after failing the first round of votes last week in the Illinois House, but the second round of votes passed and it moved to the Senate. Now it’s up to Governor Pat Quinn to approve and sign. Quinn, a Democrat, supports the death penalty even though he continued the moratorium that was imposed by former Governor Ryan. Today’s vote was timely in light of the recent shooting of Representative Giffords, the six who were killed, and those who were injured on Saturday in Arizona, because the shooter, Jared Loughner, could face the death penalty. Will Quinn take the recent tragedy in Arizona into account when he makes his decision? Will he vote with his political party and approve the bill or will he vote no and appease Republicans and the Tea Party? What would you do? Discuss here.
There are Democrats who would support the death penalty, as there are Republicans who would not. However, overwhelmingly Republicans support it and Democrats don’t, but what about the Tea Party? Where does the Tea Party stand on the death penalty? That’s a question that can’t be answered at the moment because the Tea Party hasn’t focused on social issues such as the death penalty. Leaders of Tea Party groups have said time and time again that they don’t want to get involved in social issues that are a hot bed for divisiveness, the whole concept of the Tea Party was formed around fiscal conservatism and maintaining the constitution.
As the Tea Party grows in size and influence, and political figures who are known to be socially conservative jump on the bandwagon, it will be difficult to stifle talk of social issues. Jenny Beth Martin, leader of the Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t like to answer questions about social issues and prefers that those who speak at their conventions stay on the fiscal message and not stray into social issues. She said “When people ask about them, we say, ‘Go get involved in other organizations that already deal with social issues very well,’ ” she said. “We have to be diligent and stay on message.”
Deciding to maintain or abolish the death penalty will create criticism and praise for Governor Quinn as it’s a divisive issue that generates passionate philosophical debates from both sides. It will be interesting to see if the Tea Party comments on this as there are economic consequences tied to Quinn’s decision if he vetoes the bill. It costs taxpayers more to keep a criminal behind bars when they are on death row than it does to sentence them to life behind bars. The legal fees and accommodations for a death row inmate can climb into the hundreds of millions of dollars because it can take decades until they’re either executed or their sentence is reduced to life in prison. Politicians and political groups who are serious about cutting spending should hope that Quinn signs the new bill. The problem is that the death penalty is about more than money, there’s a lot more at stake with this law. Just ask the people of Arizona.