Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that he will bring First Step — i.e., leniency legislation for federal felons — to the Senate floor. It has more than enough votes to pass.
McConnell’s move follows some concessions to the bill’s critics. Although the concessions don’t come close to curing the legislation, they were enough, combined with pressure from the White House and from wealthy Republican donors, to move some GOP Senators into the “yes” column. With his caucus now favoring the bill and the White House pressing him, McConnell yielded.
The concessions pertain to who is exempt from eligibility for early release under First Step. In prior versions of the legislation, fentanyl dealers were eligible. So were certain sex offenders.
When Sen. Tom Cotton noted these flaws, defenders of First Step, whose ugly, dishonest tactics shouldn’t be forgotten, accused him of spreading “misinformation.” When that didn’t work, they changed the legislation to some of the flaws that supposedly didn’t exist.
But fentanyl dealers haven’t come away empty. Team Leniency’s largesee still extends to this class. They won’t be eligible for early release, but going forward, they remain eligible for reduced sentences at the front end.
President Trump has therefore violated his promise to get tougher on fentanyl dealers. Instead of getting tougher, he has backed a bill that is less tough on this class of criminals who, as he notes, collectively are killing tens of thousands of people and destroying lives.
Moreover, despite the concessions on early release, there are still dozens of very serious felonies that are not excluded from early release eligibility. The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys has compiled a list of these crimes. Here, are a few of them:
Drug-related robbery even if a person is killed or suffers significant bodily injury;
Most cases of trafficking crystal meth;
Most cases of trafficking heroin;
Conspiracy or attempt to engage in human trafficking, including of children;
Bank robbery by force or violence including assault with a dangerous weapon;
Assaulting a law enforcement officer;
Carjacking with intent to cause death or serious bodily harm;
Assaulting a child or infant;
Assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm;
Assault resulting in serious bodily injury.
Sen. Cotton intends to offer a series of amendments. McConnell says he will make sure Cotton and others are able to do so.
The process will, I imagine, make life uncomfortable for many in the GOP caucus who are backing Team Leniency’s jailbreak. But not as uncomfortable as they deserve to be made. And, I predict, not as uncomfortable as they will become when beneficiaries of the jailbreak are apprehended for heinous crimes.