criminal-justice

Criminal Justice Debate Turns to 'How Much' Is Possible

   

Debate about a sweeping criminal justice overhaul bill favored by Republicans and Democrats is now focused on the size and scope of potential changes, but there are reasons to doubt its passage this year.  

Ryan, McConnell Find Little 'Common Ground' at White House

Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walk to the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Nov. 3. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama's private meetings with congressional Republican leaders appeared to do very little to  break the legislative impasse that largely has defined his tenure.  

Descriptions of the meeting from both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. were clinical at best. Notably missing were usual Washington declarations that a high-level meeting was “productive” or “constructive.” Asked about that omission, an aide to Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., called the speaker’s time on Tuesday with Obama “cordial.”

Obama, Ryan to Lunch Tuesday at White House

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as he arrives to deliver his final State of the Union address. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The White House expects President Barack Obama and the Republican House and Senate leaders on Tuesday to discuss issues ranging from taxes to criminal justice to national security.  

Obama is scheduled to meet privately with Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Later, he and Ryan will have a one-on-one lunch meeting. It will be Obama’s first private meeting with Ryan since the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee became speaker in late October. Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the trio should discuss several matters on which they appear to agree. That list includes a sweeping trade pact Obama’s administration negotiated with Asian countries, battling the heroin epidemic, and authorizing the fight against the Islamic State.  

Rand Paul Applauds Obama's Solitary Confinement Changes

Obama acting on his own on solitary confinement rules rather than wait for Congress. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama has opted to make some changes to the federal criminal justice system on his own, rather than waiting for Congress to pass an overhaul measure during an election year. And his new solitary confinement rules have already won the praise of one GOP presidential candidate.  

Solitary confinement will no longer be used on juveniles or individuals accused or convicted of low-level crimes, Obama announced  Monday in a newspaper op-ed. He also is expanding treatment for the mentally ill and ramping up the amount of time inmates subjected to solitary confinement get to spend outside their cells. Collectively, the changes will affect 10,000 federal prisoners, according to the White House. Those changes stemmed from an Obama-ordered Justice Department review of federal solitary confinement policies that began last summer. That review determined holding prisoners in solitary can be a “necessary tool” in instances such as prisoners needing to be in isolation for their protection, Obama wrote in the opinion piece in the Washington Post.  

Was There Ever an Obama-Ryan Honeymoon?

Ryan greets Obama as he arrives to deliver his final State of the Union address while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. looks on. It was one of Ryan's few smiles of the evening. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama repeatedly had to raise his voice to be heard over cheering Democratic lawmakers during his State of the Union address on Jan. 12. But Speaker Paul D. Ryan sat motionless, his face frozen in a polite — but unimpressed — expression.  

Obama used part of his likely final address to a joint session of Congress to extol policy whims long pushed by Democrats like pre-kindergarten “for all” children and a government-led effort to “to make college affordable for every American.” He also called it a “basic fact” that the U.S. “has the strongest, most durable economy in the world,” saying the country is “in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history.”  

Praise, Criticism for GOP as Obama Wraps 2015

Obama delivered a downright upbeat 2015 legislative victory lap and 2016 pep talk before leaving the White House. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

During his year-end news conference, President Barack Obama took the kinds of partisan shots that for years have so frustrated congressional Republicans. But he also flashed the pragmatic streak that helped him notch several legislative victories in 2015.  

On one hand, Obama praised Republicans for crafting several high-profile bills that met his muster. But on the other, he clubbed the GOP for bucking the rest of the world for its rejection of the very concept of climate change. The president and Capitol Hill Republicans have had a rocky relationship since even before he took office in January 2009, and the bad blood has made Washington a symbol of legislative dysfunction ever since. But the ill will seemed to dissipate a bit this year, as he signed into law sweeping bills on education, highways, the Export-Import Bank, and a massive spending bill that raises defense and domestic budget caps and also averts a government shutdown.  

Obama, Ryan Speak Same Language on Criminal Justice Overhaul

Ryan addresses Congress on Oct. 29 after being sworn in as speaker. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:05 p.m. | Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s record suggests issues like helping former inmates find work on the outside might just be an early area of collaboration with President Barack Obama, who traveled to New Jersey Monday to unveil a list of executive actions aimed at doing just that.  

Obama wants Congress to “build on” criminal justice changes he announced Monday by sending him legislation that would rid the federal hiring process of questions about prior criminal history, an issue that earned him applause during his address at Rutgers University in Newark. With Republicans in the majority of both chambers, the president was careful to frame the criminal justice overhaul effort as bipartisan, mentioning Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.  

Obama Won't Be Pushing Second Amendment Rollback After Latest Shooting

The White House said Obama believes gun violence can be addressed without rolling back the Second Amendment (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After Wednesday's shooting during a local television news live shot in Virginia, the White House said President Barack Obama is continuing to call for new gun safety laws.  

But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama won't be following the lead of some Republicans who want to address immigration by changing the Fourteenth Amendment with a call to curtail the Second Amendment.  

Fattah Buttonholed Obama Directly, According to Indictment

Fattah, third from the right, attending an Oval Office signing ceremony in 2012. (Official White House photo/Pete Souza)

The Department of Justice's indictment of Rep. Chaka Fattah alleges the Pennsylvania Democrat's quid-pro-quo scheme included an in-person effort to get President Barack Obama to give a lobbyist an ambassadorship.  

Fattah, a powerful Pennsylvania Democrat, is a longtime ally of the president's and a frequent visitor to the White House. But according to the indictment, Fattah abused his relationship with the president and his staff and tried to get the lobbyist a nomination, first as an ambassador and later as a member of "a federal trade commission."  

Indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah Is a Frequent White House Visitor (Video)

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder, left, talked with Rep. Chaka Fattah, during a statue unveiling ceremony for civil rights activist Rosa Parks in the Capitol's Statuary Hall Feb. 27, 2013. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It's not every day that a frequent White House guest and political ally of the president is indicted on public corruption charges. But Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who was indicted Wednesday by the Department of Justice, has been to the White House dozens of times to meet with President Barack Obama, according to public visitor logs.