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Lindsey Graham demands prison reform vote

November 18, 2018

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Sunday urged to President Trump to “pick up the phone” and order Republican leadership to put a prison reform bill on the floor in the lame duck session, saying it’s a substantive way to mend post-election divisions.

The South Carolina Republican said the reforms, which include inmate job training and easing of mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent offenses, would help black and Hispanic males, in particular.

Mr. Trump has endorsed the bill, known as the “First Step Act,” but its fate remains uncertain.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reluctant to put it on the floor this year, citing mixed support among GOP senators and the fact it would consume floor time needed for other priorities.

Senior Republicans, however, say it is better not to wait.

“I’m urging Mitch McConnell put this bill on the floor,” Mr. Graham, who will become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

The current chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, also called his party colleagues to account, saying they should control the bill’s fate before Democrats take the House in the new Congress.

“NOW is time to pass crim justice reform unless your argument is that you prefer to work w Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass a bill?” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Friday.

Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, spearheaded the effort and sold it to the president.

Mr. Kushner has had several discussions with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who is said to be more open to the reforms than former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Sessions, who had fought the legislation and ordered his prosecutors to seek maximum possible penalties for criminal defendants, resigned last week at the request of Mr. Trump.

Another development that helped to push the legislation forward was the concession by Democrats not to make certain tweaks retroactive to people currently serving prison sentences.

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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