AN HISTORIC MOMENT FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
U.S. SENATE PASSES FIRST STEP ACT WITH 87-12 VOTE; LEGISLATION EXPECTED TO FLY THROUGH HOUSE, HEAD TO POTUS’S DESK
Cotton & Kennedy Poison Pill Amendments Overwhelmingly Defeated on Bipartisan Basis;
(Washington, D.C.) Tonight, the Senate passed the most comprehensive criminal justice reform bill in a generation, the First Step Act, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 87-12. The groundbreaking prison and sentencing reform bill was supported by senators on both sides of the aisle, the majority of voters, and a number of distinguished groups including the Fraternal Order of Police, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The National Governor’s Association, The National Association of Manufacturers, and many more. The House of Representatives is expected to pass the legislation and immediately send the bill to President Trump’s desk for his signature.
The First Step Act was spearheaded by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), an unlikely partnership that worked diligently to ensure this bill’s passage on the Senate floor. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA) shepherded the initial bill through the House earlier this year and achieved an overwhelming bipartisan vote.
Several last minute “poison pill” amendments proposed by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and John Kennedy (R-LA) aimed at gutting the substance and intent of the bill were defeated by wide margins on a bipartisan basis.
“Today was a resounding win for second chances, bipartisanship, and most importantly, for the thousands of Americans families who are burdened by our broken justice system,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of Justice Action Network and a Kentucky-based conservative strategist. “In one of the most divisive political climates in decades, Republican and Democratic senators reached across the aisle and made history, ushering in a new era for a justice system that prioritizes rehabilitation, provides second chances, and ultimately makes us all safer.”
“Passage of this landmark legislation would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of Senators Chuck Grassley, Dick Durbin, Mike Lee, Cory Booker, Kentucky’s own Rand Paul and countless others. We are also grateful to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who stepped in and called the bill to the floor. These Senators put partisanship aside and worked together to pass this bill, and the Justice Action Network is honored to have worked alongside these leaders in securing its passage.”
As the country’s largest bipartisan advocacy organization, Justice Action Network serves as a national hub for bipartisan cooperation in the criminal justice reform space. Working through dozens of funded partners on the right and the left, JAN has assisted in the passage of many significant reform bills across the country. JAN credits groups including FreedomWorks, #Cut50, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Conservative Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, Prison Fellowship, Right on Crime, the Center for American Progress, the Fraternal Order of Police, the U.S. Chamber, and so many more for linking arms and moving forward in lockstep to advance federal reforms, which will better prioritize public safety, improve and expand rehabilitative opportunities for incarcerated people, and begin the process of reducing unduly harsh sentences for certain nonviolent offenders.
Today’s final Senate vote sends the legislation to the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to pass immediately and then move to the President’s desk for signature.