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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP set to release controversial Biden report McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Senate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg 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 McConnellOcasio-Cortez to voters: Tell McConnell 'he is playing with fire' with Ginsburg's seat McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Video shows NYC subway station renamed after Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year Trump signals he will move to replace Ginsburg 'without delay' 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 CornynCalls grow for Biden to expand election map in final sprint Bipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection 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 RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates MORE (R-Ohio) on criminal justice reform legislation. A similar sentencing reform bill is also waiting for a floor vote in House.