The new bipartisan criminal justice reform bill backed by President Donald Trump could reduce thousands of sentences and save the federal government millions of dollars in incarceration costs.
Yet even with broad support and modest goals — it would affect only federal prisoners, a tiny slice of the nation's overall prison population — the bill known as the First Step Act is at risk of stalling in Congress.
At an event at the White House last week, Trump announced his intention to sign the bill, which his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, have both publicly endorsed and pushed forward in the administration.
"I'll be waiting with my pen," said the president, who noted that the bill would reverse some federal policies that "disproportionately affected the African-American community."
The goal is to pass it before a divided Congress takes office in January. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Trump last week that this is unlikely due to time constraints, according to a report by The New York Times.
Other top Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote before 2018 ends, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who sponsored the bill along with 11 other senators. "Plenty of time to pass First Step Act in December," Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, tweeted on Friday. "Will GOP senators & Ldr McConnell stand in Pres Trump's way of achieving major bipartisan victory or join in historic + popular reform?"
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a co-sponsor, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have also called on McConnell to schedule a vote.