Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win

Strange bedfellows on criminal justice reform could offer Trump a legislative win
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In a sharply-divided Washington, D.C., where even with Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House, nothing seems to be getting done, including the long-promised repeal and replace of Obamacare, and long talked about tax reform. But even as most of the items at the top of the Republicans’ agenda seem stalled, at least for the moment, there is one thing that has bipartisan support and could perhaps bring President Trump a much-needed legislative victory.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees Democrats fret over GOP changes to Mueller bill Let Robert Mueller do his job MORE (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is one of several GOP senators who backs reforms to the current system. He joins Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators to Trump: Let Mueller finish Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump’s VA pick make it through the week? Mike Lee pens op-ed calling legislation to protect Mueller 'unconstitutional' MORE (R-Utah), Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP anxiety grows over Trump’s Iran decision Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators eye path forward on election security bill | Facebook isn't winning over privacy advocates | New hacks target health care Paul backs Pompeo, clearing path for confirmation MORE (R-S.C.), Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeJulian Castro predicts Arizona will 'go blue' for Senate, presidential election GOP anxiety grows over Trump’s Iran decision GOP senator: Trump's comment on Kim Jong Un 'surpasses understanding' MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottPartisan tensions rise as Mueller bill delayed GOP dismisses report that tax law will add .9 trillion to debt Gowdy on video questions how long Pruitt is ‘going to make it’ MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenators fume over fight to change rules for Trump's nominees GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees McCaskill outpaces GOP opponent by more than million MORE (R-Mo.) along with Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees Senators to Trump: Let Mueller finish Russia probe Democrats fret over GOP changes to Mueller bill MORE (Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseEPA security chief worked for tabloid owner linked to Trump: report Overnight Energy: Pruitt proposes rule targeting 'secret science' | Dems probe Pruitt's security chief | FAA bill provisions could strip endangered species protections Dems say Pruitt security chief’s authorization for side job is invalid MORE (R.I.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyCongress should build on the momentum from spending bill Overnight Tech: Zuckerberg grilled by lawmakers over data scandal | What we learned from marathon hearing | Facebook hit with class action lawsuit | Twitter endorses political ad disclosure bill | Uber buys bike share Overnight Cybersecurity: Zuckerberg faces grilling in marathon hearing | What we learned from Facebook chief | Dems press Ryan to help get Russia hacking records | Top Trump security adviser resigning MORE (Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBudowsky: End the DNC malpractice Webb: Bernie Sanders announces his ‘new’ communism jobs, health-care plan A new progressive standard on campaign cash: It can't come from corporations MORE (N.J.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Cybersecurity: DHS cyber nominee vows to make election security 'top priority' | CIA to allow lawmakers to review classified info on Haspel | Dems raise security concerns about Trump's phone use Democrats fret over GOP changes to Mueller bill Feinstein introduces bill allowing DHS to quickly remove 'compromised software' MORE (Calif.) in renewed bipartisan calls for reforms to the criminal justice system.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which seeks to reduce sentencing for prior drug offenses, reduce the current mandatory minimum sentences, and help recently released inmates reintegrate into society and become productive citizens.

Lawmakers from both sides arrive at the same conclusion based on different reasons. However, what truly matters to voters is that they can, at least, arrive at the same conclusion.


Grassley introduced the bill in the Senate on Oct. 4. The Iowa Republican said the bill “ensures that these consequences fit their crimes by targeting violent and career criminals who prey on the innocent while giving nonviolent offenders with minimal criminal histories a better chance to become productive members of society.” Grassley added that the legislation “strikes the right balance of improving public safety and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Democrats, like Booker, argue that the legislation prevents minorities and the poor from being “disproportionally affected” by what Leahy described as “ineffective and draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”

“The mass incarceration explosion of the last 40 years has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, held back our economy, undermined public safety, disproportionately affected communities of color and the poor, and devalued the very idea of justice in America,” Booker said. “The bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is a critically important and urgently needed step forward to help right these wrongs.”

Booker is right. The U.S. prison population is among the highest in the world, with an estimated 6,741,400 inmates in federal, state and local prisons at the end of 2015, according to a Dec. 29, 2016 press release from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

According to the ACLU, the U.S. was the “world’s largest jailer” in 2014. Despite being home to just five percent of the global population, the U.S. inmate population accounted for 20 percent of the world’s total incarceration population during that year.

It’s a trend that has been rising steadily for decades. Between 1980 and 2014, the population of inmates in the U.S. increased 408 percent. Meanwhile, the violent crime rate in the U.S. has steadily declined since 1980, with the exception of a slight uptick in violent crime during the early to mid-1990s, Business Insider reported.

The issue of criminal justice reform is one of the few in Washington that could bring lawmakers from both sides of the aisle together to potentially pass landmark reforms, though it’s unclear whether Trump and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions defends Trump’s power to pardon without consulting Justice Dept GOP senator: 'We were there' on immigration before talks got derailed Sessions defends census citizenship question as 'common sense' MORE, who generally support stricter sentences, would support the legislation.

Yet, without the repeal of ObamaCare, and with the prospects for tax reform in question, the administration would be smart to embrace criminal justice reform as one significant legislative victory potentially within its reach.

Jon Street is a former assistant editor for The Blaze and the former Vermont Bureau Chief for The Franklin Center's"