A top leader in the Republican-majority Senate is signaling his 2017 support for a proposed law to reduce federal prison sentences for drug traffickers.
Since last October, some Republican legislators have pushed to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing across the board for drug traffickers, via passage of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (SRCA).
Several leading Republicans have strongly opposed the measure, while others say they will support it if Democrats support a mens rea reform, which would make federal prosecutions of white-collar criminals more difficult.
So far, Democrats have opposed this bargain, which offers benefits to some Democratic politicians and some business interests. Meanwhile, the White House and its allies are using their regulatory powers to revise sentencing guidelines sand so release tens of thousands of criminals back onto the streets.
But now Senate majority whip John Cornyn is signaling he’s willing to pass the sentencing-rollback bill in 2017, even without a mens rea reform.
A reporter covering Cornyn’s speech to a local Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 12 noted that the Texas senator will continue to push the sentencing rewrite, even if passage of a controversial law also gives a boost to a new Democratic administration.
— Sean Walsh (@sbcmw) October 12, 2016
In January 2016, Cornyn said he didn’t want mens rea reform to stop the SCRA from becoming law. “I worry that if we begin to add additional things to that legislation, it is going to weigh it down to the point where we will not be able to pass anything this year,” he said at a Senate hearing.
The GOP’s top leader in the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell, still opposes the rollback bill, say sources.
But Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has also repeatedly stated he wants to pass the sentencing rewrite, even as violent crime—particularly murder—rises dramatically, and a heroin epidemic fueled by uncontrolled illegal immigration kills tens of thousands of Americans.
Conservatives have slammed Republicans, such as Cornyn, for offering crucial aid for the left, even if Democrats keep control of the White House in 2017.
“Republicans like [Cornyn] already have a game plan in place if and when Hillary is elected: make Hillary’s presidency a great success,” wrote conservative critic Daniel Horowitz. “In other words, nothing too different from the GOP’s modus operandi during the Obama presidency.”
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has harshly criticized the bill as well, saying it would fuel crime, addiction, and dysfunction.
“Let me disabuse of the idea of the ‘low-level drug offender.’ If you’re a single mom, living in the American ghetto, and you’re doing everything that you can to try to keep your child and your children away from the dope dealer who stands on the corner every day, or runs a dope house just down the street from yours, it is a huge relief for her to have that person taken out of circulation,” he said at a May press conference. “‘Low-level’? Much of the violent crime we’re talking about — armed robberies, burglaries, drive-by shootings — are the result of drug war disputes. So forget about the thought of this ‘low-level drug offender.’”
Middle class and lower-income Americans, including minorities, have become increasingly concerned about crime in their communities: In 2014, 39 percent told Gallup they were worried “a great deal” about crime, and only two years later in April 2016, that number rose sharply to 53 percent.