McConnell Favors Justice Reform Vote After Election

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he will move a criminal justice reform compromise bill after the Nov. 6 election if it has 60 votes, The Hill reports. The Senate GOP conference is divided on the package, which merged a House-passed prison-reform bill with bipartisan sentencing reform provisions written by senators. The bill is a high priority of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. “Criminal justice has been much discussed,” McConnell said Wednesday. “What we’ll do after the election is take a whip count and if there are more than 60 senators who want to go forward on that bill, we’ll find time to address it.” It’s a significant commitment from McConnell, who has resisted bringing criminal justice reform legislation up for a vote before the election because Republican senators are divided on it.

The Hill reported earlier that at least 30 Republican senators favored moving forward on the House-passed “FIRST STEP” Act. Ohio State University Prof. Douglas Berman says in his Sentencing Law & Policy blog, “that will be more than enough for Senator McConnell to move ahead unless a whole lot of Democratic Senators decide they want to hold out for a more ambitious bill.” Berman adds, “I am starting to think that the prospect of the FIRST STEP Act becoming law before the end of the year might be pretty darn good.”

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