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Trump-backed prison reform bill sails through House

Trump-backed prison reform bill sails through House

Postby smix » Wed May 23, 2018 1:34 pm

Trump-backed prison reform bill sails through House
Politico

URL: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/ ... use-603333
Category: Politics
Published: May 22, 2018

Description: A bipartisan prison reform bill backed by President Donald Trump sailed through the House on Tuesday — but it could be left to languish in the Senate amid internal Republican squabbles over the scope of the legislation. The bill, which would provide training programs for prisoners with the goal of reducing recidivism rates, easily passed the House in a 360-59 vote. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has signaled he’s unlikely to bring up the bill in the Senate unless Republicans can resolve their differences. Now, supporters of the House measure are hoping Trump will use his bully pulpit to nudge Senate opponents to the negotiating table. Trump held a White House summit Friday on the bill, instructing lawmakers to resolve their differences and send him something he can sign into law. “They — Jared [Kushner] and the president — have been very supportive,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a lead author of the bill, said of Trump and his son-in-law and adviser. “So the question will be, Is Mitch McConnell wanting to punt altogether on this issue?” The bill would be the first major bipartisan success backed by Trump, besides spending bills, since he came into office and would give Republicans a legislative victory to tout to voters ahead of the midterm elections. The bill would also be a significant boon for Kushner, who, despite a sprawling policy portfolio, has yet to land any significant wins on Capitol Hill. The prison bill is stalled in the Senate, however, in large part due to an insistence on a larger-scale criminal justice package by Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Although Grassley has netted 13 GOP co-sponsors for a bipartisan bill that includes both prison reform and an overhaul of federal sentencing rules, that approach is a nonstarter with the White House and particularly anathema to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Grassley hasn’t given up, however, having aligned with his lead Democratic negotiating partner, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. “For that deal to pass the Senate, it must include sentencing reform. At least as of now, that’s something Sen. Durbin and I still are sticking together on,” Grassley said at a Tuesday event on criminal justice reform. Grassley said he continues to see a bigger criminal justice bill as a winner for Trump. Given that his legislation is “bipartisan and you have a Republican president [whose] approval rating is underwater — although it’s moved some — it would be a very nice thing, not only as a matter of good public policy, but something pretty politically expedient for a president to do,” Grassley said. “And I would hope people would wake up to that.” Just as the influential Judiciary chief hasn’t given up on a bigger bill, the powerful Koch network hasn't given up on steering prison reform past the Republican schism that’s hampering its prospects in this Congress. Koch Senior Vice President Mark Holden said in an interview he’s hopeful Grassley will relent on his opposition to a narrower, prison-only bill. “We want to see something get done in a time period that’s still in this year,” Holden said. But Grassley said even if the prisons bill were brought to the floor, he and Durbin have enough senators on their side to block the measure — a potentially embarrassing scenario that Republican leaders want to avoid. The bill had divided Republicans and Democrats — though not along the typical party lines — and resulted in a series of nasty skirmishes behind the scenes, including accusations of senators meddling to derail the House bill and pointed criticisms by Democrats against each other. Siding with Grassley and Durbin are other influential voices in the criminal justice world, including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. But proponents of the narrower House bill, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Collins and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the lead Democratic co-sponsor, say it's futile to move a broader bill through Congress that Trump has already said he won’t sign — and that Sessions has tried to derail in the past. Cornyn supported Grassley’s more comprehensive approach in the past but has since introduced a narrower prisons bill, identical to the House measure, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “Will sentencing reform just immediately follow this? Probably not — we’re getting ready for an election year,” Collins said at a pen and pad Monday with Jeffries. “There’s always got to be that balance of where the White House is on this because otherwise we’re spending time doing something that won’t get signed.”
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