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Jim Webb's Criminal Justice Overhaul Commission Blocked Again In Senate

Sen Jim Webb

First Posted: 10/20/11 05:59 PM ET Updated: 12/20/11 05:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jim Webb's effort to reform criminal justice in the United States has once again been blocked in the Senate.

On Thursday afternoon, the proposed National Criminal Justice Commission Act, which the Democratic senator from Virginia put forward as an amendment to a wide-ranging appropriations bill, failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster. The vote was 57-43.

Webb's bill would establish a bipartisan commission charged with taking a hard look at the drug war and prison overcrowding, among other criminal justice issues, at the national, state, local and tribal levels. Its findings and recommendations would then be released in the first comprehensive report since 1965 on the state of criminal justice in America.

Webb first introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act in 2009, only to have it blocked in late 2010 for procedural reasons.

"Today Senate Republicans blocked an important opportunity to make our criminal justice system more fair and effective," Webb said in a statement released Thursday by his press office. "Their inflammatory arguments defy reasonable explanation and were contradicted by the plain language of our legislation. To suggest, for example, that the non-binding recommendations of a bipartisan commission threaten the Constitution is absurd."

The bill is supported by organizations across the political spectrum, from the NAACP and the ACLU to the National Sheriffs' Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.

When Webb first introduced the legislation, many wondered whether the commission's inquiry would lead to legalization of marijuana. In interviews, the senator found the prospect "a very legitimate question" for the commission to consider.

In his statement Thursday, Webb vowed that he would not give up on the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. "After years of building the case for reform, we have earned the trust and support of advocates across the philosophical and political spectrum. We will not back down. We will keep fighting for a comprehensive review of the justice system, with the help of the thousands of sheriffs, police, mayors and justice advocates who have joined us in pressing for reform."

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