Criminal Justice Reform Bill Sets Up Battle Between Senate and White House

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Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durban have been trying for years to pass a criminal justice reform bill that would, among other things, axe the three-strike penalty, reduce mandatory minimum sentences, and introduce programs meant to rehabilitate prisoners. It has never gone anywhere.

But on Thursday, The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act—with 20 co-sponsors—was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, garnering support from a majority of Republicans.


Though the effort has slowly gained momentum, Axios reports that there is “scant appetite” in the Trump administration for a substantive criminal justice reform bill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for one, refuses to appear “soft on crime,” while Jared Kushner believes the White House is “better off shooting for what is achievable”—which is prison, not criminal justice, reform.

From Axios:

A White House official told me they spent 6 months listening and learning on this topic and don’t see a path forward at this time on criminal justice reform but do see a path forward on prison reform.

“We could have the status quo or we could have movement on a serious issue that could save money, reduce crime, and help people,” the official added. “And it could build momentum for other areas as well.”


But Grassley, no doubt remembering the ways in which he has contributed to Trump’s legal legacy in helping confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a slew of conservative circuit court judges, let this little threat linger: “I’ve carried a lot of water for the White House. They ought to give some consideration for the close working relationship we’ve had on issues we agree on.”