Sentencing Bill’s Odds Improve, But Are No Sure Thing

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Even with President Trump now on board in a bipartisan push to overhaul federal prison and sentencing laws, proponents must now compete with a rapidly closing window to move a complicated bill with broad implications for the criminal justice system, The New York Times reports. Some conservatives and liberals still have their own reasons to oppose the compromise hashed out in the Senate, while Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, cautioned there is little time remaining to secure the needed 60 votes to take up the bill before the end of the year and the transition to a new, divided Congress.

In what the Times called potentially “the most significant changes to the (federal) criminal justice system in a generation,” the bill combines new funding for anti-recidivism programs, the expansion of early-release credits for prisoners and the reduction of certain mandatory minimum sentences. The president’s support, breathing unexpected life into a legislative effort that had more than once appeared to be dead, could give political cover to Republicans wary of reducing some hard-line sentencing rules for drug and other offenses. The Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police organization, said last Friday that it would support the bill, and the National Sheriffs’ Association appeared to have dropped some previous objections after exceptions were made to block certain fentanyl offenders from eligibility for “good-time credits” included in the prison overhaul portion of the bill. But powerful pockets of opposition remain among some law enforcement officials and conservative lawmakers. However, they lost a powerful ally within the administration when President Trump fired his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, last week. Sessions’s temporary replacement, Matthew G. Whitaker, has signaled that he is more open to the changes.

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