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 GrassleyFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts Overnight Health Care: CDC links vitamin E oil to vaping illnesses | White House calls Pelosi drug price plan 'unworkable' | Dem offers bill for state-based 'Medicare for All' White House says Pelosi plan to lower drug prices 'unworkable' 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 LeeOn The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program MORE (R-Utah), Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Graham on the impeachment inquiry: 'I made my mind up. There's nothing there' Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption MORE (R-S.C.), Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeKelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottPompeo to speak in South Carolina on Veterans Day The Hill's 12:30 Report: House takes major step by voting to approve impeachment procedures Treasury, IRS propose form to collect data about investments in opportunity zones MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden MORE (R-Mo.) along with Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills Senators push for deal on impeachment trial rules to avoid political brawl Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid MORE (Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic senators seek documents on Trump's alleged call for Barr press conference Senate committee advances budget reform plan Bipartisan Enzi-Whitehouse budget bill a very bad fix for deficits MORE (R.I.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program EPA blames advisory board for controversial changes to FOIA policy MORE (Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Poll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump demands Bidens testify MORE (N.J.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHarris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: 'This is some s---' Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Senate talks on stalled Violence Against Women Act reauthorization unravel 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 SessionsTrump attends football game with Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate race opponent Bradley Byrne Impeachment tests Barr-Trump relationship Tide, Tigers and Trump: President hopes for home-field advantage in Alabama 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"