Senate advances criminal sentencing reform bill

A Senate committee on Thursday passed legislation aimed at reducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and armed career criminals, setting up a possible vote on the Senate floor.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 15-5 vote, and was opposed by Republicans Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Ted Cruz of Texas, David Vitter of Louisiana and David Perdue of Georgia.

"This bill is a success because it is a compromise," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the bill's lead sponsor said in his opening remarks before the vote. "None of the cosponsors got everything we wanted, but we reached a broad agreement on certain principles."

In addition to reducing sentences, the bill would require the federal government to create and publish a database of all federal crimes, and create a new system for assessing the risk level of federal prisoners. Solitary confinement on juvenile offenders would be restricted, and judges would have more discretion in sentencing.

It also increases mandatory minimum sentences for other offenses, such as domestic violence or for providing support to terrorist organizations. The bill was originally introduced in the beginning of October, and President Obama supports it.