Grassley, Durbin Reveal Supermajority Whip Count, Including 28+ On The GOP Side
Senators Durbin, Grassley, and Lee Address Washington Post Live Audience and Lay Out Current Challenges, Opportunities and The Road Ahead on Criminal Justice Reform
Washington, D.C. – Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley doubled down on his effort to get the First Step Act a vote before the end of the year, even saying he would prioritize the bill over other measures, including judicial nominations. The Chairman appeared in lockstep with his Democratic colleague Senator Dick Durbin at the Washington Post Live event sponsored by the Justice Action Network, as both leaders expressed an urgency to getting the bill to the Senate floor before the new Congress is seated in 2019. The Senators also publicly revealed their whip count today, citing wide support in the Senate, including “28-30” on the Republican side of the aisle, according to Chairman Grassley.
“We have a once in a generation opportunity to accomplish something on criminal justice reform, and we should move on it now… It gives Republicans an opportunity to deliver a bipartisan victory for the President of the United States,” said Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
“Chuck Grassley and I agree, Senator Booker, Senator Lee, the Fraternal Order of Police with the ACLU, the governors, the mayors all agree [on First Step],” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “This is a coalition like I’ve never seen in my lifetime.”
“I’m going to keep fighting until we get a vote… if we get a vote, this thing will pass. We may get to the 80, 90 vote mark,” predicted Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). “The day after this passes, we will start to see reforms that make our criminal justice system more humane, more legitimate…This bill would make the American people safer.”
In addition to First Step Act sponsors Grassley and Durbin, and conservative stalwart Lee, other speakers at the bipartisan forum included Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and diverse national criminal justice reform advocates who are championing the legislation in Congress and in states across the country. The First Step Act, the most meaningful federal criminal justice legislation in over twenty-four years, combines critical prison and sentencing reforms that mark the first turn away from the harsh mandatory minimums in the 1994 crime bill.
“We’re trying to do the right thing by citizens of Pennsylvania. We want justice. Punishment should be appropriate to the crime. We need to stop conflating criminal justice and confinement,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
Advocates on the right and the left also discussed the path forward for reform after the First Step Act is passed. They highlighted the need for clean slate legislation at the federal level, and more reforms for incarcerated women. But the focus was clearly passing prison and sentencing reforms at the federal level this year.
“Everyone knows there is time to get this bill done now and that the votes are there. It’s time to finally give the American people the public safety return they deserve, and provide meaningful second chance opportunities to countless people trapped in a cycle of failure,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the Justice Action Network.
“This is just the first step. And we cannot wait any longer for the perfect bill. We’ve been waiting for years. Families need relief now,” said Jessica Jackson Sloan, co-founder of #cut50.
“We are so close to getting it done… we’re going to pushing hard to get this across the finish line,” said Jason Pye, Legislative Director of Freedomworks.