Aug 24, 2018

McConnell commits to moving forward on criminal justice bill after midterms

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to a whip vote for the prison and sentencing reform bill after midterms, his spokesperson confirmed to Axios. Sen. McConnell made the commitment in a meeting with Jared Kushner and Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn and Mike Lee.

What to watch: Although Sen. McConnell’s spokesperson said a commitment to a vote had not been made, a source familiar told Axios the Majority Leader came just shy of promising a vote. Sen. Lee’s spokesperson Conn Carroll told Axios that Sen. McConnell had committed to a vote if the whip count reached more than 60.

While President Trump said earlier today he will not endorse the bill before the midterms, he has privately expressed openness to the compromise currently being negotiated, according to a senior administration official and Sen. Lee. The bill includes reductions of sentences for certain low-level crimes.

  • Trump's support will be key to uniting Republicans and getting the bill passed, although it will likely face tough opposition from Sen. Tom Cotton and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oppose any efforts to reduce sentences.

However, Sen. Lee told Axios he's confident the bill will have enough support to merit a vote, and that it could easily pass. Although he wishes the vote would happen sooner, "today’s events are a victory because we now have a high degree of confidence that we’ll have vote between now and the end of the year," he said.

What they're saying: The White House explained in a statement "the President remains committed to meaningful prison reform and will continue working with the Senate on their proposed additions to the bill."

  • A spokesperson for Sen. McConnell told Axios there will be no vote before the upcoming elections, and no commitments have been made for a vote after midterms, "but proponents of the legislation will continue to discuss the issue with their colleagues, followed by a whip count after the October session to accurately assess the Conference’s view on the issue."
  • Grassley released a statement, saying "I’m very encouraged by the leadership shown today by President Trump to make prison and sentencing reform a priority soon after the election and Leader McConnell’s openness to bring it up this year. And I’m confident with the President’s continued backing, we’ll have more than enough votes to pass a bill overwhelmingly."

Go deeper

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

America's future looks a lot like Nevada

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Today's Nevada caucus will foreshadow the future of American politics well beyond 2020.

Why it matters: The U.S. is in the midst of a demographic transformation, and the country's future looks a lot like Nevada's present. Today's results, in addition to shaping the 2020 race, will help tell us where politics is headed in a rapidly changing country.