Senators to Try Again on Sentencing Reform This Year

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Federal sentencing changes may not be dead just yet. Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA) plans to take up a bill to revamp U.S. sentencing laws and reform prisons soon after his panel clears the high-profile nominations from Donald Trump, Politico reports. A similar measure passed his committee overwhelmingly last year before stalling out in the face of opposition from law-and-order conservatives. “Criminal justice reform will be one of the legislative bills I plan to bring up early on,” Grassley said. “It cleared the committee with a broad bipartisan majority in the last Congress, and I don’t expect that to change.”

The chief authors of the bill, led by Grassley and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), will continue to try to drum up more support among senators, while “educating” the Trump administration about their bill’s merits, Grassley said. Opposition from law-and-order conservatives, including incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-AL), prevented the bill from passing last year. Aiding their cause is the fact that three of five opponents on the committee — Sessions, David Vitter of Louisiana, and David Perdue of Georgia — are no longer on the panel this year.  The bill would loosen some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes and would make changes to the prison system aimed at reducing recidivism rates. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), a supporter of the criminal justice reform effort, speculated that once Sessions becomes attorney general, his chief objective will be on enforcing what Congress sends him. “I don’t necessarily see him weighing in heavily on public policy choices that President Trump makes,” Tillis said.

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