DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Ohio Republican Rob Portman, a leading figure in his party who is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for president in 2016, will call for a reevaluation of the “war on drugs” and the massive prison population it has created in a speech set for Tuesday and shared exclusively with BuzzFeed.
But Portman is also expected to warn that President Obama’s plan to use executive power to make reforms to drug sentencing could prevent larger, lasting changes from coming to pass.
“President Obama recently announced that he would grant clemency to hundreds of non-violent drug offenders,” Portman is set to say Tuesday in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “That may be within his power, but it’s like placing a Band-Aid on a deep wound. It may cover up the problem of prison overcrowding today, but it doesn’t address the deeper problem that drives recidivism.”
Portman’s words come as crime, punishment, and drugs emerge as a rare and unlikely point on which Democrats and Republicans in Washington are finding common ground. Conservatives like Portman, troubled by the vast federal spending on jails and seeking a distinctly conservative approach to crime and poverty, have found allies in Democrats and civil libertarians who have long argued for a less punitive approach to illegal drugs.