Republican lawmaker clashes with Sessions over sentencing reform bill

From Reuters - February 15, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Republican lawmaker on the powerful U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee lashed out at fellow Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, after Sessions slammed a bipartisan draft bill that would reduce prison sentences for nonviolent offenders.

In unusually strong language, committee Chairman Charles Grassley said he was irritated by a letter Sessions sent on Wednesday condemning the legislation, which Grassley has championed and which has received wide bipartisan support.

Grassleys comments came as the committee was preparing to edit and approve a sentencing reform bill that aims to lessen prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and would give federal judges more discretion over sentencing.

Sessions, when he was a senator from Alabama on the committee, helped kill a similar version of the bill before he took over the helm of the Justice Department in February 2017.

Certainly we value input from the Department of Justice, but if General Sessions wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama, Grassley said, referring to newly minted Democratic Senator Doug Jones, who bested Republican Roy Moore to win the seat that Sessions vacated.

A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately comment.

The division between Sessions and the Republican-led committee over the draft legislation signals a brewing political debate over reforms to the criminal justice system.


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