House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who is not known for his comments on justice reform, gave a big fat jolt to a bill being focused on more and more in the justice reform community. The legislation, introduced by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) on June 25, was endorsed by Speaker Boehner yesterday.
“I’d like to see it on the floor,” Speaker Boehner told reporters at his weekly presser. Since the GOP controlled U.S. House with its Tea Party vs. regular Rs split is viewed as the tougher chamber to move legislation through, Boehner’s words were a huge boost for the bill’s prospects in term of becoming law.
The bill, called the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective Justice Reinvestment Act of 2015, or SAFE Act, which could reduce the federal prison population by a large percentage. The bill takes evidence based ideas that have worked in the states to reduce incarceration numbers. The legislation has the support of the left and the right including the ACLU, FAMM and the NAACP on one side and the Koch Brothers, Newt Gingrich and the conservative group Smart on Crime on the other.
There are 16 Republicans and 16 Democrats on the bill so far. Republicans on the SAFE Justice Act include Reps. Mia Love (R-UT), Pete Olson (R-TX), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) and Democrats on the bill include Karen Bass (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and G.K. Buttterfield (D-NC).
Several Black Caucus members who are co-sponsors of the SAFE Justice Act were happy to hear that Boehner was supportive of the legislation, including Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
“Chairman Sensenbrenner and I have been working for months to put together a bill that includes bipartisan, evidence-based, state-tested solutions to reduce crime and save money,” Rep. Scott said in a statement. “I am encouraged by Speaker Boehner’s endorsement of the SAFE Justice Act and hope that his support will help us continue to build bipartisan momentum to make these changes law,” he added in a statement on Thursday.
“I’ve long believed that there needed to be reform of our criminal justice system,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly presser on Thursday. “Some of these people are in there under what I’ll call flimsy reasons.”