The New York Times calls it a “stunning display of dysfunction” that the Senate has been unable to pass a criminal justice reform bill this year “given the powerful forces arrayed behind legislation meant to provide a second chance for nonviolent offenders facing long prison sentences while also saving tax dollars on prison costs.”
“I do believe it is over,” said Senator Richard Durbin (D-Il.), who put considerable effort into difficult negotiations with Republicans to strike a compromise. “We missed an opportunity.” Senate Republicans divided on the wisdom of reducing federal mandatory minimum sentences. Some Republicans, unhappy that President Obama was reducing hundreds of federal prison sentences on his own, did not want to give him a legacy victory. A surge in crime in some urban areas gave opponents of the legislation a new argument. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.), an author of the bill, says election-year tumult was a major factor reflected in the decision by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not not to allow a vote on a proposal that might pass easily.