Senate Judiciary debates changes to sentencing reform legislation

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed an amendment to a criminal reform bill that would have kept people convicted of certain firearm offenses and armed career criminals in prison for a mandatory minimum of 15 years.

The committee was marking up the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 on Thursday, which drops those mandatory minimum sentences to 10 years and gives sentencing courts the authority to go back and retroactively reduce the sentences of prisoners now serving time. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes Press: Notorious RBG vs Notorious GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy MORE (R-Texas), who offered the amendment, said he could not support a bill that allows for the early release of dangerous criminals.

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“If this bill passes into law and a substantial number of those 7,082 prisoners are released, including violent criminals and armed career criminals, we know to an absolute certainty that an unfortunately high percentage of those offenders will go and commit subsequent crimes,” he said. 

Cruz also wanted the committee to keep mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes in which a criminal carried, brandished or used of a firearm at 25 years. The proposed legislation would reduce those mandatory minimums to 15 years.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Liberal super PAC launches ads targeting vulnerable GOP senators over SCOTUS fight Senate GOP faces pivotal moment on pick for Supreme Court MORE (R-Texas), who opposed Cruz’s amendment, said prisoners will only be released if the court that decided the case determines upon further review that a shorter sentence is warranted.

“No one is going to get out of jail free,” he said. “There isn’t going to be this mass release of felons into the streets.”