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November 16, 2018

Senate Majority Leader McConnell tells Prez Trump that FIRST STEP Act will not get done this year

According to this new New York Times piece, "Senator Mitch McConnell told President Trump in a private meeting on Thursday that there is not likely to be enough time to bring a bipartisan criminal justice bill up for a vote this year, regardless of the support it has in the Senate and the White House, according to people familiar with the meeting." here is more:

Mr. McConnell, who as majority leader controls the Senate floor, delivered the news in a previously scheduled meeting at the White House convened to discuss the chamber’s legislative agenda for the remaining weeks of the term.

Lawmakers from both parties have been working furiously to build support for the compromise legislation that would begin to reverse some of the tough-on-crime federal policies of the 1980s and 1990s that incarcerated African-American offenders at much higher rates than white offenders.

Mr. Trump enthusiastically endorsed the proposal this week, and Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, pledged to move it across the finish line in the House “this term.” But Mr. McConnell’s conclusion could all but foreclose the possibility that Congress will vote on the bill this year.

Publicly, Mr. McConnell has avoided putting his thumb on the scale for or against the legislation. He told reporters on Wednesday that if proponents secured the support of at least 60 senators, he would be willing to push the bill forward, but cautioned that he would have to “see how it stacks up against our other priorities going into the end of our session.”

Congress must also come to an agreement on how to fund a handful of federal departments, including Homeland Security, and resolve an impasse over a major farm bill, among other smaller issues. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, reiterated those points in a statement on Friday, adding, “The support for, and length of time needed to move the new bill is not knowable at this moment.”

But Mr. McConnell told the president that the bill would most likely eat up about 10 days on the Senate floor — time that he did not have between now and the scheduled end of the legislative session on Dec. 14, according to the people familiar with the remarks, who were granted anonymity to describe the private meeting. They were not connected to Mr. McConnell. If the bill had enough support, Mr. McConnell said, he would be willing to bring it up next year, after the new Congress is seated.

Supporters of the legislation, which includes anti-recidivism programs, and the expansion of early release credits and sentencing changes, worry that Mr. McConnell is being a less-than-neutral arbiter. They believe that if consideration slips into January, when Democrats who favor more expansive sentencing changes take control of the House, the current compromise could collapse....

At the Senate Republicans’ weekly caucus luncheon at the Capitol, Mr. McConnell acknowledged that the changes had influential supporters who had worked hard on the issue, but also invited two of its chief critics, Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and John Kennedy of Louisiana, to deliver remarks, two Republican congressional officials said.

Mr. Cotton, who has been perhaps the loudest critic of the bill’s sentencing changes in the Senate, urged colleagues to slow down the process, saying that the bill’s impact and implications were too expensive to push through without hearings, according to another official familiar with his remarks. He stressed opposition by some law enforcement groups and warned that a draft version of the bill he had seen would lead to the immediate release of thousands of felons onto the streets.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican who helped write the legislation, pushed back against Mr. Cotton’s characterization. So did Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and led the compromise effort. Mr. Grassley said that Mr. Cotton’s remarks made him sound like “some sort of pinko commie.”...

The delay in bringing up the legislation described to Mr. Trump is not the first time that proponents of changes in the sentencing and prison systems have bumped up against Mr. McConnell. A similar coalition of lawmakers and outside groups made a higher-profile and more expansive attempt to overhaul the criminal justice system during the final years of the Obama administration, and had support from Mr. Ryan and other Republicans. But Mr. McConnell did not allow a vote on the bill before the 2016 elections, worried about sowing divisions among Republicans.

This is quite disappointing, but not surprising, and I am now inclined to fear that no significant form of federal criminal justice reform will be completed as long as Senator McConnell is the Senate's majority leader.

November 16, 2018 at 03:01 PM | Permalink


McConnell is such a turd, pardon my French. The GOP are such cowards. One of these days they're going to tell "the base" what's good for them instead of taking instructions from fearful morons. Ok, well maybe not.

I say this as a near-lifetime GOP voter. Not no mo.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Nov 16, 2018 3:10:49 PM

Advocate for inmates. Well if they are looking for funds for other agencies then maybe they should pass this bill. how much more money would they find if they released a few thousand inmates. The BOP gets far too much money and they don't do a darn thing to help the incarcerated with job skills. They say they do but it's a joke. What are they going to do with ceramics and leather work in the real world?

Posted by: Whitney | Nov 17, 2018 12:14:17 AM

"Ditch Mitch"

-Ancient Kentucky proverb

Posted by: Guy Hamilton-Smith | Nov 17, 2018 7:30:06 AM

Doug,any reaction to this assessment of the bill?


Posted by: John Minock | Nov 17, 2018 8:42:50 AM

The Truthout article raises a few points worth keeping in mind (and a few that are misguided), but all criticisms that this bill does not do enough strikes me a similar to complaining about a team scoring a touchdown when still behind by 40 points. Yes, a small federal criminal justice reform advancement is minor in the grand scheme of all the problems in the CJ system, but it is still an advancement. And all criticisms from the left have to cope with reality that Prez Trump and a Dem-controlled Congress did far less on this front than the First Step Act in 2009 and 2010.

Moreover, the fact that there is such support for reform and yet still nothing getting done provides still further proof you have to go out and win elections on these issues to get change. And that is still a relatively rare reality (except in the arena of marijuana reform).

Posted by: Doug B | Nov 17, 2018 11:08:46 AM

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