Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that the Senate will vote on the FIRST STEP Act, an expansive criminal justice reform bill, within the month. The bill passed the House in May of this year and has awaited a Senate vote ever since.
McConnell previously said that the Senate would not vote on the bill this year. The legislation has drawn criticism from some Republicans for being soft on crime, but President Trump endorsed the FIRST STEP Act last month, which increased pressure on McConnell to move ahead with a vote in the Senate. The proposed criminal justice reforms would moderate some of the tough on crime laws of the 1980s and 1990s and enjoy support among Democrats and many Republicans.
The FIRST STEP Act sets out a series of prison and sentencing reforms designed to reduce harsh sentencing, facilitate rehabilitation and combat recidivism. The bill would expand judicial discretion in sentencing, reduce the length of mandatory minimum sentences, make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 apply retroactively, expand incentive programs that reward good behavior and early release programs for non-violent, low-risk offenders in the federal prison system. The bill exempts violent offenders, including those convicted of human trafficking and terrorism, from early release programs.
The FIRST STEP Act is one of several bills the Senate will take up in the final weeks of the year before the 116th Congress is sworn in on January 3rd.