In a rare show of bipartisan unity, Republican and Democratic senators came together on Tuesday evening to pass a bill seeking to reform the criminal justice system, marking a victory for both sides of the aisle.
The First Step Act, which will bring sweeping changes to America’s criminal justice system, passed 87-12 with support from both parties, buyoed by advocacy from high-profile influencers including Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West, Patricia Arquette, Mark Cuban and CNN host Van Jones.
As the vote went to Senate, Jones, a Democrat, heaped praise on President Donald Trump, as well as on the U.S. leader’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who the CNN host said worked with to push the bill forward, for delivering a “Christmas miracle.”
“This is history,” Jones said, speaking on Erin Burnett’s OutFront show. “Right now, you’re witnessing history on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”
“There is a Christmas miracle underway, where for the first time in a generation, Republicans and Democrats are arm-in-arm tonight saying, we are sending too many people to prison, they’re coming out bitter and not better. We want to make a tremendous difference,” the CNN host said.
Jones, who has been an outspoken advocate for justice reform, said he wanted to thank Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Kushner and Trump specifically for “bringing together a coalition like I’ve never seen.”
“You’ve got literally the National Association of Manufacturers, Fox News and Sean Hannity on the same page with [Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives] Nancy Pelosi [Democratic Senator] Cory Booker, the ACLU Cut 50,” he said.
“Something beautiful is happening and it’s not that you have to see it to believe it, you have to believe it to see it,” Jones said, ecstatically. “It’s happening right now. people coming together in America to help the people who have nothing. And it’s amazing. And I’m happy about it.”
The First Step Act aims to bring a number of changes to the criminal justice system, including reducing mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes, allowing judges to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders if they believe the move is warranted, creating more opportunities for rehabilitation for federal prisoners and ending controversial correctional practices, such as the shackling of pregnant women.
The act also seeks to bring an end to the “three strikes” mandatory life sentence for those facing a third drug conviction, with exceptions made for those with prior serious violent felonies, in addition to retroactively extending the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which could affect thousands of people serving time for drug offenses for crack cocaine versus the powder form.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump congratulated the Senate on “the bipartisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill.”
“America is the greatest country in the world and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes,” Trump said.
“This will keep our communities safer, and provide hope and a second chance, to those who earn it,” he continued. “In addition to everything else, billions of dollars will be saved. I look forward to signing this into law!”
The First Step Act will now need to return to the House for another vote before it can reach the president’s desk for an official signing.