How U.S. Senators Finally Reached A Compromise On Sentencing Bill


Through care­ful ne­go­ti­ations, Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats in the U.S. Senate work­ing on the crim­in­al-justice re­form bill announced yesterday came to a com­prom­ise on how to re­duce man­dat­ory min­im­ums, reports the National Journal. In­stead of cut­ting them in half, law­makers would ex­pand the “safety valve” that allows exceptions to the tough penalties. Describing the talks that led to the compromise, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) said of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), “He is not a law­yer, but boy is he a sharp ne­go­ti­at­or. I can­not tell you how many hours we spent, our staff spent go­ing back and forth try­ing to find some com­mon ground.”

The safety valve proposal would give courts and judges more room to look at more in­di­vidu­al cases when sen­ten­cing, in­stead of be­ing wed­ded to tight guidelines, but also would give Grass­ley as­sur­ances that sen­tences would not be re­duced uni­lat­er­ally. “We had to care­fully walk our way through it. There was noth­ing auto­mat­ic about it,” Durbin said about the ne­go­ti­ations. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said, “Sen. Grass­ley should be con­grat­u­lated and com­men­ded for his ef­forts to be open-minded on the top­ic where most people said it was im­possible for him to move on it. The man is a thinker.” The final sticking point was how to handle concerns of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) about how the le­gis­la­tion dealt with the crim­in­al re­cords of ju­ven­iles. Some con­ser­vat­ives are still weary of the re­duc­tions in man­dat­ory min­im­ums. “My im­pres­sion is they prob­ably went fur­ther than I am com­fort­able with,” said Sen. Jeff Ses­sions (R-AL).

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