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Bipartisan criminal justice reform passed overwhelmingly by Senate

The House is expected to pass the bill this week

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) were among the bipartisan coalition that supported a criminal justice reform bill. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Senate passed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill Tuesday night, clearing several legislative hurdles and clearing a path for the bill to get to President Donald Trump's desk before the end of the year, according to The New York Times.

Senators voted 87-12 to pass the First Step Act, a bill that eases mandatory minimum sentences and provides programs and training for inmates in federal prisons in order to reduce the recidivism rate.

President Donald Trump reacted to the bill's passage on Twitter.

"America is the greatest country in the world and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes," Trump wrote. "Congratulations to the Senate on the bipartisan passing of a historic criminal justice reform bill.

"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!" Trump continued in another tweet.

The bill was opposed only by Republican senators, led by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who introduced amendments trying to scale back some of the bill's provisions, such as early release programs.

Every Democratic senator voted in favor of the bill, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was not present for the vote.

House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote that the House "looks forward to sending it to the president to become law."

Here are some of the major changes the bill will make if signed into law:

  • The "three strikes" penalty would be 25 years instead of life in prison
  • Judges have more discretion to circumvent mandatory minimum sentences in some cases
  • People sentenced before 2010 (when the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine cases was reduced) could petition to have their cases reevaluated
  • "Stacking mechanisms" that make it a federal crime to possess a gun while committing another crime would only apply to people who had been previously convicted

"This bill in its entirety has been endorsed by the political spectrum of America," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "I can't remember any bill that has this kind of support, left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican."

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