Senate Approves Sweeping Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill

The Senate voted 87-12 to pass the First Step Act Tuesday night.

Senate Approves Sweeping Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill

In a rare bipartisan moment, lawmakers approved some of the biggest changes to the federal criminal justice system in decades.

The Senate voted 87-12 to pass the First Step Act Tuesday night.

Some of the changes include expanding early-release programs, giving judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and lowering the penalty for the so-called "three strikes" drug rule from life in prison to 25 years.

This is a significant win for President Donald Trump. As CNN notes, it's the biggest bipartisan victory of his presidency. But he wasn't always on board with the legislation.

Some of Trump's key advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, helped convince the president to endorse the bill last month, despite his trademark "tough on crime" stance.

Numerous organizations, including faith-based groups and conservative think tanks, endorsed the legislation, saying the changes "will improve the effectiveness of our prisons and public safety." The ACLU also threw its support behind the bill.  

Still, despite sweeping bipartisan support for the legislation, there were some holdouts. 

Conservative lawmakers Sens. Tom Cotton and John Kennedy pushed changes to the bill, saying they felt it was too kind to those who broke the law. Cotton tweeted: "The First Step Act provides hundreds of new rights and privileges to federal prisoners. ... There is not a single benefit in the bill for the victims of these criminals."

The bill is now headed for a vote in the House, which is expected to approve the legislation. It overwhelmingly passed a similar version of the legislation back in May. It will then go to President Trump's desk for his signature.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.