With just weeks left until the end of the year, a bipartisan group of senators is working hard to get a major criminal justice reform bill passed before the clock runs out. The goal of The First Step Act is to help prisoners return to society and to address excessive prison sentences. “We have the opportunity in front of us,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
Specifically, Grassley said, “We have the opportunity right now where the president’s for something and we have broad bipartisan support in the Senate for it.”
The bill has already passed the House, and Grassley believes more than 75 senators would vote ‘yes’ if it makes it to the Senate floor. He worries that if it’s delayed until next year, it’s over.
“If we don’t do this bill and Democrats come in and control the House, we’re not going to get the broad bipartisan support that we have for this now,” he warned.
In addition to prison reform, lawmakers are also wrestling with President Donald Trump’s demand of $25 billion for a border wall. Legislators must make a decision by Friday to prevent a partial government shutdown.
Grassley said he’s confident Congress can avoid that scenario simply because it costs a lot of money to open and close the government.
“I don’t think with the fiscal situation in our country we should do anything as stupid as shutting down the government,” the incoming Senate finance chairman told CBN News.
Meanwhile, a few senators, like James Lankford (R-OK), are working to permanently remove the threat of these shutdowns.
“When you’re constantly fighting about a government shutdown, then you’re always distracted over what the real issues are,” he said.
Lankford introduced a bill that would require the previous year’s funding to kick in until Congress passes a budget, and only penalizes lawmakers, not the American people, for missing their deadline.
“Let’s put the pressure where the pressure needs to be,” he said.
Congress has until December 21 to reach a spending deal to fund the rest of the government.
About the Author
Abigail Robertson serves as the congressional correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.