Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have spent decades pushing in vain for criminal justice reform, say fellow lawmakers are finally paying heed, Politico reports. The heightened attention on the heels of a high-profile deaths of black men shot by police or found dead in their custody is coming from members of both parties. “I think the most surprising support is coming from our Republican colleagues. If you look at the crack cocaine disparity, how we're paying thousands of dollars to house these folks when other methods would be just as effective … that appeals to Republicans,” said Rep. André Carson (D-IN). Yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a White House hopeful who's seized on justice reform in his pitch to minority voters, introduced legislation that would reclassify some nonviolent drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors. It is backed by Rep. Keith Ellison, a liberal Minnesota Democrat. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, will introduce a sweeping criminal justice reform bill that would mandate new training standards for police officers and stricter reporting requirements of deaths of individuals in police custody.
Whether the newfound interest yields actual legislation is another matter. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is planning to meet today with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), a top Congressional Black Caucus member, to discuss criminal justice reform. House lawmakers have a much friendlier ally in Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who's taken an interest in sentencing reform, than they've had in years from Republican senators. It's far from certain that Boehner and Senate Republican leaders will raise the issue to the top of their crowded legislative agendas. Some reform advocates are frustrated that Congress is still dithering on rebuilding the criminal justice system.