McConnell Called Final Hurdle on Sentencing Reform

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the final hurdle facing an overhaul of federal sentencing laws, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Senate’s deal last week reignited prospects that the bill—which had stalled after passing the House in May—might slip through in the the lame-duck Congress. For that to happen, McConnell, who has long been skeptical of the bill, must bring it to the floor. McConnell has been coy about its prospects.  The momentum behind the bill on Capitol Hill and the White House could open a new divide between McConnell and Trump.  Congress will be in session for just two more weeks in 2018. Next year, the bill would have to be reintroduced and would face new demands in a Democratic-controlled House. “This really does need to get done this year,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). “Saying that we’ll do it next year is tantamount to saying this just isn’t going to get done.”

McConnell doesn’t like voting on legislation that divides Senate Republicans. The sentencing bill prompted a Twitter argument between Lee and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a vocal opponent, on Monday. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is pushing for this bill to pass, signing on after securing protections for juveniles in detention. He doesn’t think the bill is perfect. “I will not let perfect be the enemy of good when thousands of lives are in the balance,” he said.  Cotton said, “what started as a prison-reform effort has transformed into sentencing reductions and early release for dangerous, repeat felons, and I therefore cannot support this bill.” The House version would allow some inmates to serve out the final stretch of their sentences in halfway houses or in home confinement, and would add new protections for pregnant and postpartum female prisoners, among other provisions.

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