BY JORDAIN CARNEY – 09/19/17 – The Hill
Senators are planning to take a second stab at passing a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill after it stalled amid GOP infighting.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Tuesday that they will reintroduce the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, though they didn’t specify a timeline for when they could roll out the legislation.
The bill, originally introduced in 2015, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and armed career criminals while increasing mandatory minimums for other offenses such as domestic violence.
“While the political landscape in Washington has changed, the same problems presented by the current sentencing regime remain,” Grassley said in a statement.
Durbin, noting senators have been working on the issue for five years, called it the “best chance in a generation to right the wrongs of a badly broken system.”
“We believe this legislation would pass the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote — it’s time to get this done,” he said.
The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2015, with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a co-sponsor of the bill, predicting it could get floor time the following year.
But the legislation hit a legislative wall amid pushback from a small yet vocal wing of Senate conservatives. House Republicans also took a different approach, raising questions about if they would be willing to take up the Senate bill.
Grassley and Durbin had both previously expressed interest in reviving the criminal justice bill. They, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), reportedly met with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner earlier this year to discuss the issue.
But the push to pass the criminal justice reform bill could set up a potential fight with the Trump-era Justice Department after the president ran as a “law and order” candidate.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was one of the leading opponents against the legislation when he was a member of the Senate.
Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, introduced legislation last year with then-fellow GOP Sens. David Perdue (Ga.), Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) that would require the administration to disclose recidivism rates for federal inmates released early because of reduced sentences.
The four senators also called the criminal justice reform bill “dangerous for America.”