What Brings Heritage Action and the ACLU Together?

None

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 9: Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) speaks during press conference on Capitol Hill February 9, 2011 in Washington, DC. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) held the news conference to announce emergency legislation to extend benefits to the long-term unemployed. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
Oct. 31, 2013, 4:06 p.m.

The cur­rent polit­ic­al cli­mate has led to all sorts of strange out­comes, such as a gov­ern­ment shut­down. But it’s also cre­ated strange bed­fel­lows, and per­haps nowhere is this more evid­ent than in al­li­ances formed over re­form­ing man­dat­ory pris­on sen­tences.

A bill re­du­cing man­dat­ory min­im­um sen­ten­cing in cer­tain non­vi­ol­ent drug cases in­tro­duced this week by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Raul Lab­rador, R-Idaho, speaks to the co­ali­tion-build­ing among the Left and the Right. It mir­rors a bill in­tro­duced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. The bill has re­ceived back­ing from groups as di­verse as Her­it­age Ac­tion, the Amer­ic­an Civil Liber­ties Uni­on, and the NAACP.

A Sen­ate com­mit­tee held a hear­ing Septem­ber on an­oth­er meas­ure from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., which would give judges great­er flex­ib­il­ity in de­part­ing from man­dat­ory min­im­ums when they sen­tence those con­victed of fed­er­al crimes.

“That hear­ing was really il­lus­trat­ive of where we’re at — you had a hear­ing called by a Demo­crat­ic chair and you had three Re­pub­lic­an wit­nesses on the pan­el, and es­sen­tially, at one point or an­oth­er, all three wit­nesses are es­sen­tially say­ing the same thing,” said Molly Gill, le­gis­lat­ive coun­sel for Fam­il­ies Against Man­dat­ory Min­im­ums.

The grow­ing con­cern about man­dat­ory min­im­ums among those on the right op­posed to ex­cess­ive reg­u­la­tions and gov­ern­ment spend­ing and those on the left who have long been push­ing for re­form has en­abled the is­sue to gain trac­tion. It is es­pe­cially note­worthy, giv­en the wide par­tis­an gap these days in Con­gress on many is­sues.

“Just with the se­quester and the budget troubles and everything, money is a lot more im­port­ant these days, and I think crim­in­al-justice spend­ing isn’t this sac­red cow it used to be,” Gill said. “Now, there are no sac­red cows. We have to look at everything, in­clud­ing this pool of crim­in­al-justice money, and are we spend­ing it wisely.”

The fed­er­al in­mate pop­u­la­tion has been on the rise. The pop­u­la­tion in the cus­tody of the Bur­eau of Pris­ons grew by 13 per­cent between 2006 and 2012. The share of the Justice De­part­ment’s budget that goes to the pris­ons has like­wise grown; 15 years ago, 14 per­cent of DOJ’s budget went to the bur­eau. For 2013, the pris­ons re­ques­ted an amount that equaled 26 per­cent of the Justice De­part­ment budget.

Ad­voc­ates also say man­dat­ory min­im­ums don’t help re­duce crime and that they dis­pro­por­tion­ately hurt the black com­munity. At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er, who has said the Justice De­part­ment would seek to scale back pur­su­ing man­dat­ory min­im­ums for low-level drug of­fend­ers, has said “un­war­ran­ted dis­par­it­ies are far too com­mon.”

“Tra­di­tion­ally, the ‘tough on crime’ sound bite car­ries the day over­whelm­ingly,” said Scott, a seni­or Demo­crat on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. “And now, people are be­gin­ning to no­tice and be­gin­ning to con­sider what kind of im­pact that will ac­tu­ally have on crime, and is this a cost-ef­fect­ive way of deal­ing with crime.”

Lab­rador, also a mem­ber of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said the in­ten­tion is not to “be soft on crime. What we want to do is be smart on crime.” The grow­ing con­cern over civil liber­ties has also gained trac­tion among those on the right.

“You have a young­er crop of con­gress­men and wo­men who also have some pretty strong civil-liber­ties ideas on the con­ser­vat­ive side, where the is­sues of liberty and pri­vacy have be­come quite im­port­ant to some Re­pub­lic­ans,” Lab­rador ad­ded.

There are some on the Hill who still sup­port man­dat­ory min­im­um sen­ten­cing as es­sen­tial to fight­ing crime, such as Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa. But the voices push­ing back against re­form aren’t an over­whelm­ingly loud chor­us.

Now that the House and Sen­ate have identic­al bills in play, it be­comes a ques­tion of time to move them through. The le­gis­lat­ive cal­en­dar for the re­mainder of 2013 is short, but ad­voc­ates want to see the meaas­ures move through the Sen­ate by the end of the year.

What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×