WASHINGTON:. The Senate delivered President Trump an early Christmas gift by passing one of the biggest overhauls to the criminal justice system. The Senate reached the needed votes to pass the First Step Act on Tuesday by 87-12.
A bi-partisan affair
This new legislation brought together unlikely allies including the ACLU, the Koch brothers, and the White House. Senators from both sides of the aisle worked on the First Step Act as well. Senator Mike Lee was a lead sponsor of the bill saying that one of the “biggest game changers” was the president pushing for this bill.
This deal marks the end of over a year of negotiations with Republican senators. The bill is a priority for Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was hesitant to bring the legislation to the floor. The house is expected to approve the bill, sending it to President Trump for approval. Trump congratulated the Senate on passing the bill.
America is the greatest Country in the world and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes. Congratulations to the Senate on the bi-partisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
The story behind the criminal justice system reform act
Democrat Senator Cory Booker says the current criminal justice system is “cancer on the soul of this country.” Booker ran on reforming the criminal justice system. Several Republican Senators voted against this bill. Among the nays were Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Also voting against the bill were Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
Part of the legislation reduces the three-strike penalty from life in prison to 25 years. The goal is reducing the disparity between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine. Senator Tom Cotton was a vocal opponent of the legislation. Additionally, Cotton says it will open the door for the early release of violent criminals.
The bill’s passage comes after years of attempting to reform the criminal justice system, including legislation introduced under President Barack Obama. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this affects those who decided to run for president in 2020, including Republicans who have voted against this legislation.