McConnell outlines hurdles to criminal justice reform

McConnell outlines hurdles to criminal justice reform
© Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt GOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday said a bipartisan deal on criminal justice reform legislation, which has tentative support from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign buys full page ads in Miami newspapers ahead of Dem debates Trump administration's 'forced diplomacy' with Iran isn't working Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama MORE, faces several hurdles before coming to the floor.

He said there’s no guarantee the measure will get a vote in the lame-duck session and noted it will have to compete for floor time with other priorities such as passing unfinished appropriations bills and the farm bill.

ADVERTISEMENT

“What I’ve said to the proponents is that we will first need a final agreement," McConnell said. "There’s been a lot of discussion but we need an actual proposal. Then we would take a whip count, see where we stand, and then weigh it at that point against the other things that absolutely have to be accomplished.”

Senate Republicans are divided over the legislation, which would ease criminal sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, and has the support of senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerJared Kushner, Ivanka Trump to appear at fundraiser for Jim Jordan: report Trump puts the cart before the horse in Palestine Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE, the president’s son-in-law.

“We don’t have a lot of time left," McConnell added. "The first step is to finalize what proponents are actually for. There have been a lot of different versions floating around. And then we’ll whip it and see where the vote count is and then see how it stacks up against our other priorities going into the end of the session."

Passing the bill hinges on getting full support from Trump, who has indicated to proponents of the measure that he is leaning in favor of it but would like to see more law-enforcement groups endorse it.

The Fraternal Order of Police — a major law enforcement group — gave the bipartisan criminal justice reform deal a big boost at the end of last week by endorsing the bill.

Trump is scheduled to make an announcement at the White House on Wednesday afternoon regarding criminal justice reform legislation.

Sentencing reforms backed by Senate proponents of the reform deal include lowering mandatory minimum life sentences for serious drug offenses to 25 years and mandatory minimum 20-year sentences for such offenses to 15 years.

Another provision would make retroactive a measure that Congress passed in 2010 to reduce the sentencing disparities between crack- and cocaine-related offenses.