Chaffetz: Forces 'aligned' for criminal justice reform

House Oversight Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (R-Utah) says the time is right for lawmakers and the White House to push ahead on criminal justice reform.

“Very few things have such broad bipartisan support. We should move on this and put the reforms in place that are necessary,” Chaffetz told The Hill on Wednesday.

“Everybody is aligned — the House, the Senate, the president. Let’s make it happen,” he added.


Chaffetz comments came after his committee wrapped up two days of hearings on the issue to educate lawmakers ahead of drafting legislation.

The hearings also come as President Obama makes reforming the nation's criminal laws a priority. In a speech Tuesday to the NAACP convention in Philadelphia, he called for reforms that would lower the prison population such as alternatives to jail time and taking mandatory minimum sentences off the books.

Obama is also slated to visit a federal prison in Oklahoma on Thursday, the first time a sitting president has done so.

Chaffetz welcomed those efforts but said the onus was on Congress to act.

“We need to do our work in the House first,” Chaffetz told The Hill. “Knowing the president will be very accepting is a positive, but we’ve got to get our work done here in the House and pass a bill out to the Senate."

Among the issues discussed at the hearing were overcrowding and understaffing in prisons, prisoner abuse, and efforts to reduce recidivism as well as racial disparities.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the Oversight Committee's ranking member, has highlighted the bipartisan nature of the effort.

“Now is the time to act on the historic, bipartisan support for criminal justice reform that currently exists in states across the country and right here in Congress," he said in a statement ahead of the hearings. 

"I believe these reforms should be comprehensive, and they should address racial disparities, community investment, mandatory minimums, and barriers to re-entry into society.”

On Tuesday, the panel heard from fellow lawmakers, including Sens. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats press for action on election security On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms MORE (R-Texas) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), as well as Reps. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Trump calls on House Republicans to let committee chairs stay on the job longer MORE (R-Wis.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHouse panel delays vote on surprise medical bills legislation Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment Critics fear widespread damage from Trump 'public charge' rule MORE (D-Va.).

On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from experts representing a number of groups pushing criminal justice reform, in particular on prison reform.

“This is a very unique hearing, I wish our leadership would have seen what happened here in the last two days, “ Chaffetz told The Hill. “This is good, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

This story was updated on July 16 at 10:48 a.m.