Cotton Fights to Stop Last-Ditch Sentencing Reform Drive

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is going all out to defeat a last-ditch effort to pass sentencing reform before the midterm elections, hoping to win a high-stakes influence campaign over President Trump on the issue, Politico reports. Cotton calls the proposal a “jailbreak” that would “let serious felons back on the streets,” taking on a coalition fighting for the package that includes the Koch political operation, White House adviser Jared Kushner and some powerful GOP senators. “The president went to Singapore and agreed with the Singaporeans that we should give the death penalty to drug dealers. I can’t imagine the president wants to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers,” Cotton says. “I believe Sen. McConnell shares my view that we should not let serious felons out of jail and we should not shorten the sentences for drug dealers.”

Opponents of sentencing reform admit it would likely pass if McConnell brings it up. Cotton’s loud opposition may determine whether or not McConnell even allows a vote given his reluctance to summon up legislation that divides the conference. “There’s no evidence to support what [Cotton is] saying,” said Mark Holden of Koch Industries. “I’d like to see Sen. Cotton have a change of heart. But if not I hope he loses. Because he’s on the wrong side of history.” Cotton has strong allies, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Many on the law enforcement side, a key Trump constituency, are working with Cotton. Jonathan Thompson, the National Sheriff Association’s executive director, has spoken to the president twice about sentencing reform: “The president knows we’re concerned.” “We think what he’s doing is terrific. Sen. Cotton recognizes that it’s a very flawed bill,” said Larry Leiser of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. “We’re hopeful the president won’t [endorse it].”

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