Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell received’t decide to a flooring vote for the First Step Act — though the bipartisan invoice has President Trump’s backing and is certain to move.
That is nuts. First Step would trim some necessary sentences for drug-related felonies, make extra nonviolent offenders eligible for early launch and supply extra funding for anti-recidivism packages.
It’s a key step ahead for smart criminal-justice reform, and Speaker Paul Ryan has made it clear he’ll maintain a Home vote if it clears the Senate. For the reason that Home handed an earlier model of the invoice months in the past, it’s prone to develop into legislation … if McConnell cooperates.
And there’s an excellent likelihood it received’t move subsequent yr: Voters final month elected a extra liberal Home, however a extra conservative Senate. Discovering the identical center floor might effectively show unimaginable, particularly as Washington descends into even deeper partisan fight.
McConnell claims he needs to make use of the out there Senate time for must-pass laws (e.g., to maintain the federal government open) and to substantiate judges who must be renominated within the new yr in the event that they don’t get votes this month.
Factor is, Democrats at the moment are block-voting towards many judicial nominees (in addition to insisting on dragging out each affirmation to the max), and about-to-retire Sen. Jeff Flake received’t vote for any of them so long as he can’t get a vote on his (blatantly unconstitutional) invoice to guard particular counsel Bob Mueller.
If no Democrat is absent, that leaves McConnell needing all the opposite Republican senators, plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, for each nomination. Wouldn’t it truly be simpler to do a few of them subsequent yr, when Flake is gone and the GOP majority is bigger?
Critics cost that McConnell is definitely attempting to appease a few of his hard-right members, equivalent to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who simply don’t purchase the case for sentencing reform.
Senate Minority Chief Chuck Schumer ought to name McConnell’s bluff by providing to fast-track a few less-objectionable nominees to liberate the ground time for First Step. If McConnell’s going to strangle this invoice, he ought to a minimum of need to personal the homicide.