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Bipartisan criminal justice bill clears Congress

Posted: 4:11 PM, Dec 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-20 19:11:04-05

The House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly passed bipartisan criminal justice legislation , marking a win for Republicans, Democrats and the administration alike.

The legislation, dubbed the First Step Act, includes measures that will allow thousands of federal inmates to leave prison earlier than they otherwise would have, will ease some mandatory minimum sentences and will give judges more leeway in sentencing, among other things. It would also retroactively apply the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the disparity between sentences for offenses involving powder versus crack cocaine.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill Friday in the Oval Office, a source familiar with the event said.

"Congress just passed the Criminal Justice Reform Bill known as the #FirstStepAct. Congratulations! This is a great bi-partisan achievement for everybody. When both parties work together we can keep our Country safer. A wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!" Trump tweeted on Thursday .

Reps. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, Jerry Nadler, D-New York, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, and Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, assembled Thursday afternoon for a news conference after the passage of the "historic" bill, which the Senate passed earlier this week.

"First of all, I want to say that we're not letting out criminals," said Jackson Lee. "We're responding to mass incarceration, but we're not letting out criminals. We're letting out people who have the opportunity to go through programs, be counseled."

At the news conference, the members all gave remarks and echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing the bipartisan effort that had been required to move the legislation through both chambers.

"Historic criminal justice reform is now a reality because we have brought together a coalition of the unusual suspects," Jeffries said.

"Democrats and Republicans, the left and the right, progressives and conservatives, the ACLU and the Koch brothers, the House and the Senate partnering with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump and the administration to strike a serious blow against the mass incarceration epidemic in the United States of America," he later added.

Collins wrapped up the news conference by saying the legislation had been done through "the art of the possible."

"I can't think of a better way on this day to celebrate who are as Americans, and who we are as people of compassion and faith, to say we are giving a first step to many who have not had that in the past. And the first step will get us to many others," Collins said.

The bill, which needed a two-thirds majority, passed by 358-36.

However, the mark of rare bipartisanship was beset by news about the government funding bill, which stood in limbo. Trump told House GOP members that he would not support the stopgap legislation that the Senate passed on Wednesday.

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