Chaffetz: Forces 'aligned' for criminal justice reform

House Oversight Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records 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 CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (R-Texas) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), as well as Reps. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerLobbying world House Judiciary Committee calls on Bezos to testify as part of antitrust probe GOP, Democratic senators call for more assistance to local media in coronavirus stimulus MORE (R-Wis.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottLack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Unions worry Congress is one step closer to a liability shield Victim advocacy groups, Democratic lawmakers slam new campus sexual assault policies 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.