Did Cory Booker flip Grassley on sentencing reform?

Sen. Cory Booker likes to portray himself as someone who can work with Republicans. During a stump speech in Iowa, televised by CSPAN, Booker used the recent leniency legislation for federal felons as an example.

There’s no doubt that this legislation was a genuinely bipartisan effort. And I’m sure that Booker, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and consistent advocate of leniency for felons, played a role in that effort.

But Booker wants us to believe more than this. He strongly implied that he played a crucial role by persuading Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to flip from staunch opponent of jailbreak legislation to key supporter. The flipping of Grassley was a key moment in the process, second only to the flipping of President Trump.

Booker told his audience of Iowa Democrats that upon arriving in the Senate, he heard Grassley rail against sentencing reform on the Senate. The audience duly booed at the mention of their home state GOP Senator.

Booker then made a show of telling the audience not to boo Grassley. Booker said he reached out to Grassley to better understand the chairman’s views, and to explain, based on his own insights and experiences, why sentencing reform legislation should be adopted. After that, Grassley became a fervent advocate of the jailbreak.

I have heard several explanations as to why Grassley went from die-hard opponent of leniency legislation in the Spring of 2015 to leading proponent by the Fall of that year. The most plausible explanations contain the the name “Koch.”

Until watching Booker’s speech this weekend, I had never heard one that contains the name “Booker.”

I suppose it’s possible that Booker helped change Grassley’s mind. Possible, but not very likely.

Grassley isn’t the Senate’s greatest luminary, far from it. However, I think he’s intelligent enough not to be seduced by Cory Booker.