Sen. Tom Cotton has been a one-man wrecking crew at times, on matters ranging from from judicial appointments to immigration reform to foreign relations, but Politico says today his winning streak may come to an end in his opposition to bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation.

Cotton has been helped in the past by his alliance with Donald Trump. But on criminal justice, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is on the other side pushing for a vote, which Senate leader Mitch McConnell now says will likely occur.


“We’re getting a lump of coal for Christmas,” said one Cotton political ally.

Yet Cotton is going to continue his opposition, saying he won’t allow quick passage unless he gets votes on amendments that could rupture the bill’s fragile coalition. The government is set to enter a partial shutdown next Friday without bipartisan action, and Cotton could drag out the debate on criminal justice reform until just before that deadline if he so wishes.

“If Democrats and the Republicans that support this bill are too scared to vote on these amendments, maybe they should think twice about bringing up such a dangerous bill in the first place,” he said.

The bill’s backers have accommodated some of Cotton’s critiques, moving to fill potential loopholes that could make violent offenders eligible for earlier release. But now that the bill is finished and moving forward, some of Cotton’s colleagues say he’s already lost and his political arguments are falling flat.

Asked whether Cotton has any hope of derailing the bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) replied: “Uh, no.”

“I like Sen. Cotton but that argument? Taking it to its logical conclusion, you never let anybody out for anything,” Graham said of the idea Republicans will be blamed for early release of repeat offenders.

Cotton tried to stir some opposition in a weird way yesterday, saying it might reduce Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s prison sentence.

Vox has further explanations on the debate here and potential for roadblocks.


Cotton, one of the most vocal opponents of the bill, has argued that the legislation could lead to spikes in crime, and claimed that it would enable violent felons to cut corners on their sentences. Advocates for the bill say he’s actively misrepresenting what it can do — and note that those who benefit from rehabilitation programs would be limited to individuals who have not committed a certain set of serious crimes.

UPDATE: Here’s another take eviscerating Cotton on the fact data he uses to support his proposition. A real takedown.