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Editorial: Criminal justice reform

Even when congressional Democrats and Republicans agree on an issue, they still can’t get anything done.

Consider the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The measure would reduce mandatory minimum sentences and implement other changes designed to address the country’s skyrocketing prison population and to ensure that those we put behind bars are primarily violent and repeat offenders. It also includes provisions to minimize recidivism and improve opportunities for offenders trying to integrate themselves back into society.

The bill has support from members of both parties in the Senate and the House. Yet the ongoing Senate squabble surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy has consumed the upper house, threatening to derail the measure, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

“Supporters of an overhaul are worried about its fate, especially with the Senate about to turn to a series of spending bills and the election-year calendar approaching a point where little gets done that is not absolutely necessary,” Carl Hulse of The Times wrote.

That would be unfortunate. Not only is it a common-sense policy, supported by a diverse array of interests on both the left and the right, it is also good politics for the GOP. Democrats are aggressively exploiting the Supreme Court stalemate as evidence that the Republican Senate is a roadblock to progress. Moving forward on criminal justice reform might help deflect that argument at a time when control of the Senate hangs in the balance this November.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had already indicated he will try to push the bill through the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should arrange his priorities to accomplish the same.

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