- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A key Republican opponent of a prison-reform bill backed by President Trump said Tuesday that supporters of the measure should kill provisions allowing certain federal inmates out of prison before they complete their sentences.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said the legislation should focus on helping people “who have paid their debts to society.”

“We shouldn’t be slashing sentences and releasing child abusers and serious felons and drug dealers early from prison,” Mr. Cotton said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.



The White House and Senate supporters of the bill are pushing for a vote on the First Step Act before the end of the lame-duck session later this month. Presidential adviser Jared Kushner, who is Mr. Trump’s point person on the legislation, said Monday night that the bill “will accomplish a lot to make our communities safer.”

“The recidivism rate that we have is way too high and not doing anything about that is irresponsible,” Mr. Kushner told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We’re very close right now and hopefully this will get to the floor and we’ll be able to have a big bipartisan celebration before Christmas.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, has been urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a floor vote. As of Monday, 34 senators had signed onto the bill.

The First Step Act aims to improve rehabilitation programs for former prisoners and give judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent offenders, especially involving drug crimes. It would also allow inmates to apply for reduced sentences retroactively for certain drug offenses.

Mr. Cotton warned that the bill’s proponents are making changes to the measure behind the scenes “seemingly by the hour.”

“There’s not really a bill to be discussed right now,” he said. “It’s getting pretty late in the day in this lame-duck session to be making changes in such a highly complex area of law that have such grave consequences for public safety.”

He added, “If they do want to move forward, I certainly hope they would exclude all fentanyl traffickers from any kind of leniency or sentencing reduction.”

Mr. Trump tweeted last week that Mr. McConnell should bring the bill up for a vote soon.

“It is extremely popular and has strong bipartisan support. It will also help a lot of people, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe. Go for it Mitch!” the president said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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