Sentencing Reform Still Alive Amid Time Crunch

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and other advocates of sentencing and prison reform are desperately trying to sway Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to keep the Senate in session longer in December to finish their bill. McConnell hasn’t ruled it out, Politico reports. Grassley said the bipartisan bill could be done “very fast,” despite concerns from Republican leaders that the bill could take nearly a week to finish and eat up limited space on the calendar. McConnell said Thursday the Senate GOP is still deliberating on whether to move forward. “We’re trying to figure out how to proceed on it. We’re still trying to figure that out,” he said.

McConnell’s top priorities are passing the farm bill, confirming judges and funding the government. As a bipartisan group of senators is still working on a new agreement to win more co-sponsors and the support of the National Sheriffs’ Association, a Justice Department draft began circulating on Thursday that rewrites a number of key provisions. The draft would still allow many federal inmates to earn time credits and obtain supervised release but would bar people convicted of violent crimes and major drug-trafficking crimes. It would also increase penalties for attacking police officers and fentanyl dealers, a key concern of law enforcement groups and senators from states hit by the opioid crisis. The White House pushed back quickly against the draft, reiterating Trump’s call for the bill to get a vote this year. One reform advocate slammed the draft as reflecting the efforts of a “rogue DOJ official who always hated the bill.”

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