President Donald Trump’s push for criminal justice reform made it past its biggest hurdle Tuesday night after the Senate gave it a seal of approval with an overwhelming amount of support.
The First Step Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that aims to reduce prison sentences and assist in prisoner re-entry. The point of this legislation is to help prisoners get back on their feet after they have served their time for their crimes.
The prisoners that will be impacted by this bill are those who are behind bars for non-violent crimes such as drug possession. The sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine (which was largely considered to be racially motivated) will be reduced. Prisoners can also reduce their sentences by earning credits for good behavior, participating in vocational training, and other rehabilitative services.
Trump has been pushing criminal justice reform throughout his presidency, meeting with people like Kim Kardashian West and earning the support of Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, as IJR previously reported.
On Tuesday night, the Senate overwhelmingly backed the bill with 87 votes in favor. Trump was quick to congratulate the Senate for its vote.
….This will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it. In addition to everything else, billions of dollars will be saved. I look forward to signing this into law!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
People from across the political spectrum joined together to celebrate the bill’s success.
CNN’s Van Jones, who is not a fan of Trump, called the bill a “Christmas miracle.”
“Liberals aren’t going to like this, but you know what made a difference? Donald J. Trump finally said enough is enough,” Jones told Axios. “Jared Kushner had been out there bleeding for this.”
Van Jones: “Liberals aren’t going to like this, but you know what made a difference? Donald J. Trump finally said enough is enough. Jared Kushner had been out there bleeding for this.” #Axios360 pic.twitter.com/w7BieegkEw
— Axios (@axios) December 19, 2018
And with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) all joining together to celebrate, Jones may be right about the Christmas miracle:
Thrilled with the passage of the First Step Act. True to its name, this prison & sentencing reform bill is a much-needed first step toward shifting focus to rehabilitation, rather than taking every person who ever made a mistake with drugs, locking them up & throwing away the key
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 19, 2018
The Senate just passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan prison and sentencing reform bill that I supported. It includes important changes, but we've still got a long way to go. I'll keep fighting for a criminal justice system that delivers on the promise of equal justice for all.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) December 19, 2018
In an act of bipartisanship Senators Grassley and Booker hug and shake hands shortly after the Senate passed criminal justice reform. pic.twitter.com/xwv1gmr1Hy
— Sarah Silbiger (@sarah_silbs) December 19, 2018
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders celebrated the First Step Act, but she also celebrated the rare moment of bipartisanship and called for it to continue:
Another historic win for President @realDonaldTrump. It’s been a productive two years. Imagine how much more we can accomplish in the years ahead if – like on criminal justice – Democrats spend more time working with GOP to build America up & less time tearing the President down https://t.co/ahsE3uYQ9Z
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) December 19, 2018
Although the First Step Act will only apply to those who are in prison for federal crimes, many see this as an important first step to reduce the massive prison population in the United States. The First Step Act hasn’t officially become law yet. It must be approved by the House and then signed by Trump — who is eager to do just that.