Report: Speaker Ryan Wants Sentencing Rollback Bill to Pass in Lame Duck Session

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Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) wants to pass a jail-sentence reduction bill through the House after the election, according to a Politico article.

The proposed sentencing-rollback law has hit a wall because House Republicans don’t want to seem weak on crime and punishment during an election season, according to Politico.

The Wisconsin Republican for weeks has repeated his personal desire to move a bipartisan package that would include allowing well-behaved nonviolent prisoners to be eligible for early release and easing some drug-related sentencing requirements…

Sources familiar with Ryan’s thinking say he’s not ready to relent just yet because of the charged political environment. While he wasn’t able to pass the Judiciary package in September as he originally hoped, Ryan is now eyeing the lame-duck session, by which time tensions might have eased.

If passed, the bill would reduce mandatory minimum sentences and would expand rules for early release.

But the bill is being held up by opposition in the Senate from Sen. Tom Cotton (R.-Ark.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) in the Senate. They note that murder rates are rising rapidly.

Equally importantly, and unreported in the Politico article,  Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other Republicans want any sentencing-reduction bill to include curbs on regulators’ ability to prosecute business executives. So far, Democrats have rejected Hatch’s proposed mens rea reform.

In the House, Ryan’s bill is apparently opposed by House conservatives, such as Rep. Bill Flores (R.-Texas), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Flores told Politico:

But the skepticism or resistance among Republicans is real. “It doesn’t sell back home right now,” said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. “When you say, ‘Hey, I’m voting for criminal justice reform,’ they’ll say, ‘What? You’re letting prisoners out of prison early?’”

While he personally believes the Justice Committee has crafted some smart proposals, Flores said it doesn’t help that it’s a key priority of President Barack Obama. The situation in Charlotte and elsewhere has also complicated the equation. “I think that what could be a good bill could be perceived differently because of current events,” he said.

Resistance from House conservatives is not a deal-breaker for the Republican House leadership. But opposition in the Senate is not easily dismissed because 60 votes are required to force votes.

With three months left in this session of Congress, there is plenty of time to pass a bill the Speaker of the House wants to get passed.


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