Lawmakers unveil bill to combat Sessions' push for tougher sentences

Lawmakers unveil bill to combat Sessions' push for tougher sentences
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing back against Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE’s order last week directing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible.

Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge House clears .1 billion Capitol security bill, sending to Biden Senate passes .1 billion Capitol security bill MORE (D-Vt.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games MORE (D-Ore.) have reintroduced the Justice Safety Valve Act in response to the drastic shift from Obama-era guidelines, which urged prosecutors to crack down on violent criminals and leaders of drug cartels while being more lenient with nonviolent, low-level drug offenders.

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The legislation unveiled Tuesday gives federal judges the ability to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Now is the time to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities House passes bill to ease standards for age discrimination cases MORE (D-Va.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

Paul was quick to criticize Sessions’s order last week, writing in a CNN op-ed that the directive would "accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system."

“Mandatory minimum sentences disproportionally affect minorities and low-income communities, while doing little to keep us safe and turning mistakes into tragedies. As this legislation demonstrates, Congress can come together in a bipartisan fashion to change these laws,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The lawmakers claim the judicial discretion created by the two-page bill will help reduce the bloated federal prison population and tackle dangerous overcrowding while ensuring sentences fit the circumstances of the crime.