With crime rising in America and police increasingly under siege, many Senate Republicans have decided it’s a good time to liberalize federal sentencing policies—and to do so “quickly.” One has to wonder at Republicans’ timing. At what would appear to be a Richard Nixon or Rudy Giuliani moment, Republicans are partnering with Barack Obama to respond like George McGovern.
What’s more, the Senate Judiciary Committee has now announced that it is taking the unusual step of holding a hearing on the bill on Monday October 19, when many stragglers, just back (or not yet back) from their recess of Columbus Day week, likely won’t attend. According to that committee’s own calendar, the last time it held a hearing on a Monday was nearly two-and-a-half years ago, when it was eager to ram through another ill-conceived bipartisan effort—the “Gang of Eight” open-borders immigration bill.
As the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette reports, Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley says that, while amendments to the bill will be allowed, “anything that would detract from the bipartisan compromise, we are committed to fighting together.” Grassley says he wants to maintain “bipartisan, bicameral support” and “move the bill quickly.”
As on immigration, Senator Jeff Sessions hit things on the head in his floor speech on Thursday:
“Over the past several months, law enforcement officers across our country have been shot at, killed without provocation, too often simply because they wear a badge. Violent crime and murders have increased across the country at almost alarming rates in some areas. Drug use and overdoses are occurring and dramatically increasing. It is against this backdrop that we are considering a bill, or will be, to cut prison sentences for drug traffickers and even other violent criminals, including those currently in federal prisons, reducing their sentences. So we need to be asking about this carefully and with real caution, because as a prosecutor for a number of years, I know that there are reasons we have people in jail….
“It’s just tragic to me that we’re making the same mistakes that we made in the 1960s and 1970s….
“As the great criminologist and professor James Q. Wilson said, ‘A high risk of punishment reduces crime. It just does.’”
Republicans used to understand that.
Anderson is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.