Nov 14, 2018

Trump endorses Senate bipartisan criminal justice reform bill

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump announced his support for the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in the Senate Wednesday, urging members of Congress to pass the bill and saying he "looks forward to signing it."

Why it matters: Trump's endorsement is a promising sign for reform advocates like Jared Kushner, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who have been pushing to get a bill passed in the Senate for the past several months. The Senate version of the bill would lower certain mandatory minimum sentences and allow some prisoners to go home early.

  • Support for the bill from large law enforcement groups over the weekend and earlier this week has been key to moving the bill forward, as Trump noted during the announcement.
  • A slimmer version of the bill sponsored by Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), which did not include reforms to federal sentencing guidelines, passed the house with strong bipartisan support in May. The addition of sentencing reforms in the Senate has stoked opposition from some hardliners such as Sen. Tom Cotton.

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he will gauge support for the bill and bring it to the floor if it's likely to win enough votes. The timing is still unclear.

"We don’t have a whole lot of time left, but the first step is to finalize what proponents are actually for... And then we’ll whip it, see where the vote count is, and then see how it stacks up against our other priorities going into the end of the session."
— McConnell told reporters on Wednesday.

What to watch: Some conservative opponents of the bill are likely to highlight provisions that would allow certain sex offenders to earn time off of their sentences, according to one person closely involved in the process.

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American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

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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."