President Trump is on the verge of the biggest bipartisan victory of his presidency as Congress puts the finishing touches on a major overhaul of the criminal justice system, a political feat that also gives him a strong argument to take to minority communities in 2020.
The changes, which include cutting prison sentences for thousands of federal inmates, are expected to win final approval in the House this week and go to Mr. Trump, who is eager to sign it into law.
Mr. Trump will score a win that eluded his predecessor, Barack Obama, in reducing long mandatory minimum sentences and other guidelines that for decades were blamed for disparate treatment of minorities, such as punishing crack cocaine violations with imprisonment 18 times longer than for powder cocaine.
The legislation, dubbed the First Step Act, also expands job training programs to reduce recidivism, increases “good time credits” earned by inmates and relaxes the “three strikes” rule to allow judges to sentence repeat offenders to 25 years instead of mandatory life behind bars.
The president helped exert pressure on Senate Republicans to get the bill moving, and his son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, spearheaded the effort.
The bill passed the Senate in an 87-12 vote Tuesday night and sent it to the House for a final vote.
“America is the greatest Country in the world and my job is to fight for ALL citizens, even those who have made mistakes. Congratulations to the Senate on the bi-partisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Critics on the left said the bill didn’t go far enough, but even Mr. Trump’s fiercest political opponents acknowledged the breakthrough.
“This bipartisan legislation will help create a more fair and just criminal justice system. It is an important step forward, but the work must continue,” tweeted Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.
The law would potentially affect the 180,789 people in federal prisons and future inmates, not those locked up in state penitentiaries, who total more than 2 million.