Georgia lawmaker says he's optimistic bipartisan criminal justice reform bill will pass

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsConservative filmmakers organizing stage play based on Strzok-Page texts: report The Go-Go's rock the stage at annual 'We Write the Songs' DC concert The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment MORE (R-Ga.) says he’s optimistic about bipartisan prison reform legislation that’s moving through Congress.

Collins, who first introduced the legislation in the House, told Hill.TV's “Rising” that he expects Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (R-Ky.) will bring the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act — or the “First Step Act” — to the floor for a vote in the next few weeks, despite opposition from members in both parties.

“I’m hopeful in the next couple of weeks — they’re still doing their whip counts now, they’re working on that, it’s got support again, it’s tying up the lose ends,” Collins told Hill.TV co-host Buck Sexton during an interview that aired on Monday.

“We did our part in the House, now they’re doing their part in the Senate,” he added.

The First Step Act, which easily passed in the House by a 360-59 vote, would allow some prisoners to potentially commute their sentences by participating in rehabilitation programs. The bill also seeks to address recidivism or lapses in criminal behavior by providing vocational training and substance abuse treatment for prisoners.

Championed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE and his son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump pushing for GOP donor's company to get border wall contract: report Trump family members will join state visit to UK Top Palestinian negotiator: Trump wants our surrender MORE, the bill is backed by a number of groups across the political spectrum, including a bipartisan national prison reform initiative called the #cut50 and the conservative Koch brothers.

Trump in November voiced strong support for the legislation, saying he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

“Today’s announcement shows that true bipartisanship is possible,” Trump said at the time.

Despite support from the White House, the bipartisan bill still faces a major obstacle in the Senate.

Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment MORE (R-Ark.), a leading opponent of the First Step Act, criticized the bill, claiming it was too flawed to be passed by the Senate.

But Collins argues that Cotton’s concerns have been addressed, saying that the Arkansas lawmaker’s tough-on-crime conservative philosophy is fundamentally flawed.

“I think most of his concerns are addressed…Senator Cotton just has a different view of criminal justice…that if you’ve made a mistake, we’re going to lock you up, really there is not a lot of concern on the recidivism side and not a lot of concern on what happens when they get out,” the Georgia lawmaker told Hill.TV.

The bill is also facing opposition from some liberal and civil rights groups, who argue it doesn’t go far enough to address issues in the justice system.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said The First Step Act "falls short on its promise to ‘meaningfully’ tackle the problems in the federal justice system."

Collins, meanwhile emphasized that the bill is just the first step toward meaningful criminal justice reform on a federal level and the time to act is now.

"I think leader McConnell ... if I had anything to say, I would implore him to realize this is the step that gets us to anything else that we may want to do because it provides something to show that we can move forward in a larger way," he said. 

— Tess Bonn