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Conservative Review

Jailbreak or criminal justice reform? Tom Cotton and Mike Lee debate on Twitter

On Monday, U.S. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., engaged in a back-and-forth on Twitter over proposed prison reform legislation. Advocates for the bill, like Lee, hope to advance it during the lame-duck session of Congress.

Cotton is opposed to the legislation, known as the FIRST STEP Act, on the grounds that it will lead to the early release of heroin and fentanyl drug dealers. When the text of the bill was released last week, Cotton criticized the Senate for neglecting to hold hearings on the final draft of the bill.

Lee called Cotton's short thread "100% Fake News," and said there were no new policies in the final draft of the bill compared to earlier drafts that received hearings.

Cotton responded, pointing to the legislative text and arguing that the bill reduces sentences for violent offenders.

To which Lee responded:

But Cotton was not finished and on Tuesday continued to make a case against the FIRST STEP Act.

Lee wants to bring the legislation to the floor so debate can begin. Cotton wants new hearings on the bill before the bill is brought to the floor for debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already told President Trump he doesn't expect the Senate to have enough time to bring the bill to the floor during the lame-duck session of Congress.

Why not hold new hearings and then have a debate outside Congress? Couldn't Cotton and Lee have a debate on the bill in the same way that Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, debated health care policy on CNN?

Most Americans won't pay attention to floor debate in the Senate, sadly. And if the bill is brought to the floor, it may be passed before Cotton's concerns are addressed. Or maybe Lee is right, and Cotton's concerns are overstated and don't need to be addressed. A publicized debate on some media platform would allow a larger audience of the American people to be informed. It would be transparent, it would be educational, it would be beneficial for the health of the American republic.

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