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November 22, 2021

Bipartisan call from members of Congress for Prez Biden to make US Sentencing Commission nominations

Regular reader who recall my regular advocacy for Prez Biden to make nominations to the now-dormant US Sentencing Commission will know that this new Reuters story made me smile:

Two Democratic and Republican lawmakers in a letter on Monday urged President Joe Biden to prioritize filling vacancies that have left the U.S. Sentencing Commission without a quorum, saying the situation has stalled criminal justice reform.

U.S. Representatives Kelly Armstrong, Republican of North Dakota, and Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, said the vacancies have "forestalled the important work of updating and establishing new sentencing guidelines."

A White House spokesperson had no immediate comment.

The commission lost its quorum in January 2019, a month after former Republican President Donald Trump signed into law the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at easing harsh sentencing for non-violent offenders and at reducing recidivism.

Armstrong and Raskin said the lack of quorum also meant the commission cannot update the advisory sentencing guidelines needed to help implement the law, resulting potentially in its uneven application by judges across the country. "It is imperative that the vacancies are expeditiously filled so the Commission can continue its work to improve the federal criminal justice system," the lawmakers wrote.

The seven-person panel's lone remaining member, Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, told Reuters this month he would be "surprised and dismayed" if Biden did not pick nominees by early 2022 and urged him to help restore its quorum.  Breyer's own term expired on Oct. 31 but he can remain on the commission for up to a year more unless a replacement is confirmed.  Armstrong and Raskin cited his potential departure as another reason to act.

The full letter can be found here.  I am ever hopeful that we will finally get nominations from Prez Biden no later than early 2022, though that will still be a year later than would have been ideal.  And I sincerely hope the Biden Administration will work effectively with Senate leaders to ensure his eventual nominees get a swift confirmation.  But even if this process gets going, it now seems unlikely a full USSC will be functioning before the May 1, 2022 deadline for the 2022 guideline amendment cycle, and so November 2023 could end up the earliest date for any guideline changes to become effective.

A few of many prior recent related posts:

November 22, 2021 at 09:09 PM | Permalink

Comments

(looking)

"(Reuters) - Two Democratic and Republican lawmakers in a letter on Monday urged President Joe Biden to prioritize filling vacancies that have left the U.S. Sentencing Commission without a quorum, saying the situation has stalled criminal justice reform."

(looks at letter)

It's signed by two members of the House of Representatives (checks Constitution). I don't even see the third Democrat.

Who confirms these people again?

Posted by: Joe | Nov 23, 2021 11:39:37 AM

"Two Democratic and Republican lawmakers"

Sorry. I read that as two Democrats and a Republican.

Anyway, it's nice a Republican in the House (like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinizer on another matter) is being reasonable here.

I'm unsure what it tells us about the U.S. Senate and the whole thing as a whole. Sen. Lisa Murkowski voiced support of a voting rights bill. Isn't enough to break the filibuster.

Same basic point -- what does one Republican in the House supporting things tell us? In theory, even if you can get a few Republican senators on board (which would be more useful here), we could get int trouble when Biden picks specific people.

It's all rather complicated.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 23, 2021 11:44:25 AM

Hey Joe-

Show me where in the constitution it says only lawmakers who hold confirmation power have the right to ask the President of the United States to take action.

Posted by: whatever | Nov 24, 2021 2:27:10 PM

"Same basic point -- what does one Republican in the House supporting things tell us? In theory, even if you can get a few Republican senators on board (which would be more useful here), we could get int trouble when Biden picks specific people."

I noted the limited value of the whole thing.

Anyone can ask. I can ask. It won't be that useful.

I'm unclear why the question was asked.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 24, 2021 2:50:32 PM

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