'Sentencing Reform' is Seriously Stuck
Presidential politics, poison pills and attack ads threaten hopes for bipartisan accord

For more than 18 months, a rewrite of laws governing federal criminal punishments has been touted as the exception that was going to prove the rule: An effort that had so galvanized both conservatives and liberals that it would become one of the few memorable policy achievements of the current Congress.  

Well, the rule has held true about the deadlocked-by-polarization Capitol becoming only more so in the sessions before a presidential election. But the exception, by fits and starts, is growing ever less likely to be exceptional.  

Hastert Gets 15 Months, Admits Abuse at Sentencing
Hush-money scheme revealed dark past; one victim brother of political ally

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) arrives at federal court in Chicago for his hush-money case sentencing. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Former House speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on Wednesday for a hush money scheme after an emotional court hearing in which he admitted to abusing underage boys during his years as a high school teacher and wrestling coach.  

Hastert, 74, said during his sentencing hearing in Chicago that he remembered abusing one of the four victims that prosecutors have identified but could not recall the others. He replied "yes" when Judge Thomas Durkin asked him outright if he committed the abuse, according to the Chicago Tribune .