A sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system is expected to pass the House today and then head to President Trump’s desk, and morale on Capitol Hill is high this week after lawmakers reached this historic compromise.
“This may be my proudest moment in eight years in the US Senate,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) a key proponent of the bill, told reporters Wednesday.
Even Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who’s pushed this issue for years, praised the White House for helping finally bring the issue to the floor for a vote.
“A breakthrough I’d never expect — the election of Donald Trump as president. What does that have to do with this? He brought his son-in-law to town,” said Durbin. “We worked with him throughout this whole endeavor — the net result of it last night is nothing short of an historic vote that really changes our outlook on our system of justice for the first time in decades,” said Durbin.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also praised members of the weekly bipartisan Senate prayer breakfast.
“Some of the people involved in that played some critical roles coming out of that in criminal justice reform just because I think there is also a religious piece of this where people sit back and they look at the criminal justice system and say to themselves, ‘Is this really right? Is this consistent with a faith-based look at the world?'” Klobuchar said at an event Wednesday.
Key components in the First Step Act include lowering mandatory minimums, allowing more inmates to serve time under house arrest or halfway homes instead of prison cells, giving judges more discretion for sentencing certain crimes, and outlawing the shackling of pregnant inmates.
“To the critics of the bill, you say that somebody under this bill will get out and do something bad. That’s probably true. But what I hope you realize that most people who get out under this bill a bit early are going to contribute mightily,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Lawmakers hope the bill brings an end to overcrowded prisons and lowers the burden on taxpayers footing the bill for incarcerating inmates. Sen. Cory Booker, however, reminds his colleagues this is indeed just the first step and there’s more work to be done on this issue.
“There are still lots of injustices that we need to address,” explained Booker. “This is the first step in a long journey and the bipartisan commitment including the White House who said to me they’re committed to continuing the work. Let’s celebrate, but the work must continue.”
As lawmakers celebrate this bipartisan win, some have expressed it could be a sign of more cooperation to come to 2019.