Syrita Bowen News, Press

Leader McConnell Follows Through on Commitment to Bring Historic Measure to a Vote


(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Senate made history as Leader McConnell filed for cloture on the FIRST STEP Act, the most significant federal criminal justice reform legislation in a generation. The prison and sentencing reforms in the bill have overwhelming  support on both sides of the aisle, and polling shows the majority of voters in the country approve of the bill, including over 80% of Republicans. The legislation is expected to receive support from at least 70 Senators, and a majority in both parties. President Trump endorsed the legislation, urging Leader McConnell to vote the bill, tweeting encouragement that went viral: “Go for it, Mitch!” 

The bipartisan legislation is spearheaded by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), an unlikely partnership that held firm for the sentencing reforms in the measure. Both leaders were adamant that the bill had to be bipartisan, and refused any changes on which there was not agreement.

“This an historic moment, and we cannot let it pass us by,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of Justice Action Network and a Kentucky-based conservative strategist. “This bill will set the country on a path to safer communities, stronger families, and second chances for those who seek to turn their lives around. We credit Senators Durbin and Grassley for reaching across the aisle and working together on this measure—without their steadfast commitment to bipartisan cooperation, the legislation would never have made it to a vote. I also credit Leader McConnell, my home-state senior Senator, for working closely with the President, putting Kentucky voices first, and ultimately stepping in and saving legislation that addresses the civil rights issue of our time. The debate on First Step will not be easy, but nothing worth it ever is, and the Leader will be on the right side of history when the bill makes it to the President’s desk.”

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 dozens of significant reform bills from Ohio to Minnesota, Oklahoma to Kentucky. 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 mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent offenders.

Today’s motion puts in motion a cloture vote on Monday and final vote shortly thereafter, and the House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill immediately after a successful Senate vote. 

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