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McConnell Decides Senate Will Vote on Criminal Justice Reform Bill Backed by Trump

McConnell Decides Senate Will Vote on Criminal Justice Reform Bill Backed by Trump

Make it happen.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) finally decided to pick up the criminal justice reform bill, the FIRST STEP Act, that has the approval of President Donald Trump. From The Washington Examiner:

“At the request of the president and following improvements to the legislation that have been secured by several members, the Senate will take up the recently-revised criminal justice bill this month,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “I intend to turn to the new text as early as the end of this week.”

The FIRST STEP Act, would, among other things, reduce some federal prison sentences, passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year. But it has sharply divided the Senate Republican Conference, with Sen. Tom Cotton, Ark., leading the charge against it as soft-on-crime legislation.

AEI summarized the bill:

The revised legislation does just that. The bill maintains House-passed provisions that improve federal prison policy while providing “down-payments” on much needed sentencing reform. In addition to banning the horrific and destructive practice of shackling pregnant inmates during child birth, the bill would give judges greater discretion in the use of mandatory minimum sentences, extend retroactively a 2010 law that eliminated sentencing disparities for cocaine-related drug offenses, and curtail the use of “stacking” by federal prosecutors who add firearms charges even when a weapon was not discharged during a criminal act.

The bill also expands “programs designed to discourage recidivism [tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend] and limit juvenile solitary confinement.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) described the moment as an “ideal opportunity” to show bipartisanship and have it come out successful. He claimed the bill has 75 votes in the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) came out for the bill on Friday and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) joined him.

The GOP wants to get the bill back to the House in December before the Democrats take over in January, which could cause problems or have it shredded to pieces.

Supporters have noted they will limit debate on the bill, but for it to quickly move out of the chamber, all 100 senators need to approve.

However, the GOP has an opponent within its own party. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) hates the bill and wants to “introduce amendments to alter the bill ‘to address its remaining threats to public safety,’ comments which suggest he will not agree to a quick debate with no amendments.”


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This is the right move. Minimum sentencing in particular has been subject to chronic abuse by prosecutors.

So much for Trump’s promise to get tough on drug dealers pushing fentanyl in our communities and killing 35,000 Americans a year.

From what I have read, this will effectively release thousands if not more illegal aliens, who then will not be deported and will be loose once again.

It’s silly to talk about “a bill”. There isn’t one. The question is all over the place, and there isn’t anything being put out in the public to assess.

We can’t afford to give every convicted defendant life plus cancer. The costs of incarceration are enormous everywhere.

Jason Riley in an op-ed in the Dec. 5 Wall Street Journal wrote:

“By a vote of 360-59 in May, the House passed a version of the legislation designed to curb recidivism by helping inmates return to society. It provides for more rehabilitation programs and vocational training, for example. Prison conditions also would improve under the bill: Inmates would be placed in facilities located closer to their families, and women would no longer be shackled during childbirth. So far, so good.

But once the First Step Act moved to the upper chamber for consideration, what had been a federal prison-reform measure morphed into a sentencing-reduction bill. For starters, the Senate bill eliminates mandatory life-without-parole penalties for repeat drug offenders and reduces mandatory-minimum sentences for other serious drug offenses.

On Monday, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard pointed out that the bill would give prison wardens the authority to deem violent criminals no longer dangerous and make them eligible for early release. “At the very least,” he writes, “this loophole undercuts the claim by supporters of the bill that ‘violent criminals and sex offenders’ would not qualify for shortened sentences.”

The present system is a disaster, and certainly needs to be be changed in many ways, but this isn’t the answer. They’d do better to throw this out and start over than try to fix it, and it’s not likely McConnell will allow any amendments to try to fix it.