The number of Americans murdered jumped 16 percent in 2015, after falling steadily for two decades, but House Speaker Paul Ryan and the GOP leadership are joining President Obama to push a sentencing-reduction “reform” that reverses successful 1980s tough-on-crime policies.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, first elected in 2014, is leading opposition to the plan. “It would be very dangerous and unwise to proceed with the Senate Judiciary bill, which would lead to the release of thousands of violent felons,” Cotton told Politico on January 25. “I think it’s no surprise that Republicans are divided on this question… [but] I don’t think any Republicans want legislation that is going to let out violent felons, which this bill would do.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s preliminary figures, the national murder rate rose 6.2 percent during the first six months of 2015.
But while the FBI only released the statistics for the first half of 2015, other sources have tallied a much higher climb in murders. According to the left-leaning Marshall Project, murder rates increased 14.6 percent in 2015. And according to other sources, the murder rate climbed by a frightening 16 percent.
The increase in murders has been uneven across the country and, due to gangs and drug-fueled warfare, tends to be felt most in the nation’s biggest cities.
The FBI also reported a 1.7 percent increase in violent crime during the same period. This is also a departure from the downward trend in crime the nation had experienced for decades.
Despite the rise in crime, especially murder, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives want to join with Obama in a quick 2017 deal to lower sentences for criminals and to push convicted felons out on the streets years earlier than they otherwise would be released.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123), a bill some have taken to call a retroactive jailbreak bill, is a bill intended to lower sentences and also release already jailed felons earlier to conform with the new sentencing rules.
It was introduced by GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and signed onto by a bipartisan slate of Senators including Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). President Obama has also said he supports the bill.
The bill also has the support of far-left organizations such as the National Council of La Raza, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and others.
Unfortunately, the bill also seems to have the support of Speaker Paul Ryan and the House GOP leadership.
Ryan has been pushing the issue for several years, long before he became speaker. For instance, as far back as July of 2014, the far left website Think Progress noted approvingly that Ryan had a “progressive” sentencing proposal “buried” in his poverty plan.
Also, last September, Ryan told participants at the North Carolina Business and Economic Development Summit that the federal government needs to move on “redemption” for criminals.
“We need to make redemption cool again in society,” Ryan said. “I think we overcompensate—‘we,’ meaning the political system—overcompensated in the 90s, with our sentencing [policies]. We’re looking at prison reform. We’re looking at sentencing reform with respect to the federal policy, and that’s just a small slice of what happens in criminal justice.”
As 2016 dawned—and after he became Speaker—Ryan was again flogging the policy of which he and Obama agree 100 percent. In a January 10 piece in Politico, writer Jake Sherman noted Ryan said the policy is “the biggest [issue] we can make a difference on.”
Ryan’s support for the Democrats’ sentencing reform scheme caused Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff to say the speaker is violating the first rule the GOP House should be observing in an election year: “do no harm.” And according to Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz, by a margin of almost 2-1, voters feel we don’t do enough to crack down on drug trafficking.
But political commentators aren’t alone. The Gallup polling firm finds 70 percent of Americans think crime is on the rise.
So, Americans are feeling less safe, Americans are being murdered in numbers not seen in over 20 years, the GOP leadership, Obama, and the Democrat Party are all bent on a policy that critics say will cause those crime rate to start climbing upwards again.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.