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Tipsheet

McConnell Agrees to Take Up Trump-Backed Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Tuesday that he will take up a vote on bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation that is backed by President Trump.

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"At the request of the president and following improvements to the legislation that has been secured by several members, the Senate will take up the recently revised criminal justice bill," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.

The FIRST STEP Act joins a House-passed prison reform bill meant to reduce recidivism with four changes to sentencing laws. 

McConnell’s decision is a reversal from remarks he made at a Wall Street Journal event last week where he argued that the Senate may not have time to take up the “extremely controversial” legislation.

“It’s extremely divisive inside the Senate Republican Conference, in fact there are more members in my conference that are either against it or undecided than or for it,” he said at the time. “This is a one-week to 10-day bill and I’ve got two weeks.”

However, since then changes have been made to the bill to earn more GOP support and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and David Purdue (R-GA) have endorsed the measure.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is still an opponent of the legislation. Following McConnell’s announcement, Cotton outlined the objections he still had to the legislation.

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President Trump is a huge proponent of the legislation and tweeted his hope that McConnell would take it up Friday.

McConnell also told the Senate Tuesday morning that they may have to work through Christmas.

"Members should now be prepared to work between Christmas and New Years, if necessary, to complete our work," he said during his floor speech. 

"Unless we approach all this work in a highly collaborative, productive way and take real advantage of unanimous consent to expedite proceedings, it is virtually certain that the Senate will need to be in session between Christmas and New Years in order to complete this work," he emphasized.

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