May 19, 2018
The latest political back and forth, on both sides of the aisle, as federal prison reform efforts gain momentum
Politico has two fascinating new articles about on-going political debates and maneuvering surrounding the FIRST STEP Act. That proposal, as reported here, received a 25-5 vote in favor in the House Judiciary Committee ten days ago, and it seems to be the top federal criminal justice reform bill with a real chance to get to the desk of Prez Trump in the coming months. Here are the full headlines and the start of each Politico article:
Trump vowed in his remarks that his administration would make circumstances "far, far, far greater than ever before" for former prisoners looking to rebuild their lives. But other leading Democrats are fighting Jeffries' approach, pushing for the sentencing reductions, which are opposed by the Trump administration. Jeffries' rebuke came in response to a letter [posted here] criticizing the narrower prisons bill circulated on Thursday by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), among others.
Multiple law enforcement groups say Sen. Tom Cotton’s office approached them about opposing a bipartisan prison reform bill — a key legislative priority for President Donald Trump — according to emails reviewed by POLITICO.
Cotton’s office says it made no direct request for groups to oppose the bill. But the outreach from the Arkansas Republican, one of Trump's closest allies in Congress, has left supporters of the prison reform effort suspicious that he is trying to tank the Trump-backed legislation before it reaches the Senate.
Cotton is a stalwart critic of broader criminal justice overhaul proposals but has yet to publicly come out against the narrower, prison-focused approach that Trump is backing. However, the emails reviewed by POLITICO show at least two leading law enforcement groups discussing a call by Cotton’s office this week for letters of opposition on prison reform ahead of a White House summit Friday on the issue.
In one instance, the request from Cotton’s camp appears to have lost the prisons bill a supporter: The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which had declared its endorsement in February, wrote to House and Senate Republican leaders on Friday announcing it was reversing that position and would oppose the prison reform bill, citing changes made to the measure in recent weeks. A member of the organization said Cotton’s office had asked the group to send a letter of opposition, according to one of the emails reviewed by POLITICO. The FLEOA did not return a request for comment.
In a separate email shared with POLITICO, another top law enforcement group said it and other similar organizations had been contacted by Cotton’s office with a request to oppose the bill in writing.
Cotton spokeswoman Caroline Tabler said the office had not directly requested any public opposition. “Senator Cotton believes it’s important that we get prison reform right, and that any legislation must fully protect law-abiding Americans. He’s consulted with Arkansans and several law enforcement groups and is actively working with his colleagues to address his concerns with the current bill,” Tabler said in a statement.
I suspect that there are not many examples of Senator Tom Cotton and Senator Kamala voting similarly on a high-profile piece of legislation, but the latest news and developments concerning federal criminal justice reform suggests they may both end up voting no (albeit for different reasons) if and when the FIRST STEP Act comes up for a vote in the Senate. Interesting times.
Some of many prior related posts:
- House Judiciary Committee approves FIRST STEP Act by a vote of 25-5 after lots of discussion of amendments
- Mapping out the politics for the path forward for federal prison (and sentencing?) reform
- Puzzling through the current politics of pursuing federal statutory criminal justice reforms
- A fittingly depressing account of the current state and potential fate of federal statutory criminal justice reform
- More criticism of prison-reform only efforts, while failing to explain a path forward for broader federal sentencing reforms
- On eve of House Committee consideration, distinct advice from criminal justice reform groups on latest federal prison reform proposal
- Five prominent congressional Democrats write in opposition to federal statutory prison reform without broader sentencing reform
- Prez Trump pledges to sign prison reform that will be "best in the world"
May 19, 2018 at 04:40 PM | Permalink
Cotton is interested in making himself look good, nothing else.
He goes off half cocked, with no accurate info, nor does he understand the fed guidelines. That pretty well sums up his career.
Posted by: MidWestGuy | May 19, 2018 9:58:45 PM
If I were Cotton, I would not bother opposing this bill. Its provisions are trite, small, and meaningless. They will have no impact whatsoever on crime. It is for the display of false piety. If it proves to be a bipartisan success that makes people feel a little better about themselves in the Congress, it is worth enacting. They are having a rough year.
Posted by: David Behar | May 20, 2018 12:36:10 AM
MidWestGuy: I cannot help but wonder if AG Sessions may be urging Cotton's work here, especially as a means to provide a counter-point to all the folks in both parties in the Senate eager to see a bill bigger than the FIRST STEP Act moving forward.
Posted by: Doug B | May 20, 2018 11:24:57 AM