Rand Paul's Bipartisan Push To Fix Criminal Justice

Posted: Jan 31, 2015 3:13 PM
Civil forfeiture. Sentencing reform. Felon voting. These are all largely unsexy issues that don't particularly strike the chords of grassroots conservatives. But they're all issues that Senator Rand Paul is planning to take up, with the help of congressional Democrats, in an effort that may help the GOP reach voters whose big issues aren't typically politically salient.

As Dave Weigel reports:

On the morning before attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch would face Congress, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul re-introduced a bill that would tie her hands. Paul and a crew of congressmen—Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, Michigan Representative Tim Walberg—had resurrected the Fifth Amendment Integrity Act. If passed, it would restrict the government’s ability, from the Department of Justice on down to local cops, to seize property from criminal suspects.

“We’ve had protests across our country, and people think it’s about one or two instances,” Paul said from the rostrum. “No. It’s one thing after another. Let’s say you’ve got a poor family in a neighborhood in a big city, and grandmother owns the house. The 15-year old son is selling marijuana. They catch him. They take the house! The house was the only stabilizing thing in a family that was having trouble.”

Last year, Paul’s bills were written—and introduced with Democrats—at a staggered pace. This year, the senator expected “to get all those bills introduced in the next few weeks.” They include a bill that would give judges more flexibility in sentencing (with Pat Leahy), a bill that would allow felons to more easily restore their voting rights (with Harry Reid), and a bill that would reduce sentencing disparities in drug crimes (with Cory Booker).

Weigel reports that Sen. Judiciary Chariman Chuck Grassley is behind at least the asset forfeiture aspect of this push. Paul's proposals have gotten lots of press ink before with no action, but with a new GOP congress that has promised to be more bipartisan and force its members to take uncomfortable votes, Paul might get more of a hearing this time. Stay tuned.