Former federal prosecutors push for vote on criminal justice reform

A group of former federal prosecutors and government officials are calling on Senate leaders to bring Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE’s (R-Iowa) criminal justice reform bill to the floor for a vote.

“We endorse this bill because it makes some of the most needed improvements to the front and back ends of the federal criminal justice system,” the group said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-N.V.). 

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Grassley's bill, which has 28 co-sponsors including 13 Republicans, would target mandatory minimum sentences to high-level drug traffickers and violent criminals. It would also give prosecutors new tools to target violent criminals with new penalties.

The letter was signed by 67 people, including former FBI directors Louis Freeh and William Sessions; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served under President George W Bush; and several former U.S. attorneys and federal judges.

It follows a separate letter from 40 former federal law enforcement officials that expressed concerns about the bill's changes to mandatory sentences for certain firearm offenses and armed career criminals.

The letter from the prosecutors casts the changes as moving sentencing reform in a positive direction, and emphasizes the fact that it will not eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences.

“And it is important to note that applying these reforms retroactively will not eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences these offenders are subject to, or any additional penalties the judges previously imposed," the letter said. 

Senate leadership has not said when it plans to bring its bill to the floor for a vote, but Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas) said a vote is likely in early 2016. 
 
In October, Cornyn talked to McConnell about the possibility of moving criminal justice reform. 
 
"Several of us made a pitch to him that if he wants a good bipartisan bill that the president will sign, that's a good candidate," he told reporters at the time.

The letter comes a week after Obama's State of the Union address, in which he said he hoped to work with House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection MORE (R-Ohio) on criminal justice reform legislation. A similar sentencing reform bill is also waiting for a floor vote in House.