Big challenge: Biden is pressed to end federal death penalty


A: The surest way to prevent a future president from again restarting executions is to sign a bill abolishing the federal death penalty. That would require Congress to pass such a bill.

Thirty-seven members of Congress urged Biden in a Jan. 22 letter to support the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act, sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

But Biden would have to persuade Republicans. In the 22 states that have struck the death penalty from their statutes, none succeeded in passing the required laws without bipartisan support.

Biden could draw immediately on his presidential powers and do what Obama did not: commute the death sentences of 50-some inmates still on death row in Terre Haute to life in prison. None of the death sentences could ever be restored.