Senate votes to end debate on criminal justice reform bill

The Senate advanced a White House-backed criminal justice reform bill on Monday, paving the way for senators to try to pass the bill as early as Tuesday.

Senators voted 82-12 to end debate on the legislation, which merges a House-passed prison reform bill with a handful of changes to sentencing laws.

Twelve Republicans voted against advancing the legislation despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE endorsing the measure in November: Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoGOP senator attacks Biden: 'I'm not sure what he recalls' Oil and gas is a partner — not an adversary — in meeting our economic and environmental goals Murkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrRep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy Overnight Defense: Trump rejects major cut to military health care | Senate report says Trump campaign's Russia contacts posed 'grave' threat Senate report describes closer ties between 2016 Trump campaign, Russia MORE (N.C.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGOP brushes back charges of hypocrisy in Supreme Court fight Trump uses bin Laden raid to attack Biden Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (Ark.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Cynthia Lummis wins GOP Senate primary in Wyoming The Hill's Convention Report: Democrats gear up for Day Two of convention MORE (Wyo.), John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Pence defends Trump's 'obligation' to nominate new Supreme Court justice MORE (Alaska), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischWhy the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Senators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque MORE (Idaho), Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseGovernment watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Ben Sasse is mistaken with idea for the election of senators in America MORE (Neb.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanWill Republicans' rank hypocrisy hinder their rush to replace Ginsburg? Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll Republican Senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal MORE (Alaska), Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsSenate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Senate GOP eyes early exit MORE (S.D.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (Pa.).

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The Senate is expected to vote on potential changes to the legislation as soon as Tuesday before taking a final vote on the bill.

“There are a number of members with outstanding concerns that they feel are still unresolved. ... The Senate will be considering amendments before we vote on final passage later this week,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Senate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes MORE (R-Ky.) said ahead of the vote.

Though supporters rolled out a final version of the bill last week to try to win over more GOP senators, conservatives, led by Cotton and Kennedy, are expected to get votes on three amendments. 

Cotton, in a National Review op-ed published Monday, said his potential changes would help "limit the damage" and conservatives who had already said they would support the bill "have jumped on the bandwagon too soon."

"A number of serious felonies, including violent crimes, are still eligible for early release in the version of the bill the Senate will vote on in a matter of days. In short, the First Step Act flunks their basic test to protect public safety," Cotton wrote. 

He added in a separate tweet that opponents to his amendments were circulating false claims about his proposed changes. 

Cotton and Kennedy’s changes would including requiring that the victims or families of victims are notified when an individual is released. Another change would be to make publicly available rearrest data for those released, as well as information on prior offenses by those released and the crimes for which they were imprisoned.

The Kennedy-Cotton amendments would also add approximately 10 offenses to a list that excludes someone from being eligible for the bill’s earned-time credits, which could be used to shorten sentences.

Toomey said in a statement that he was still weighing supporting the bill but voted no on Monday because it will block senators from voting on an amendment that he wanted to offer. 

“The First Step Act contains worthwhile provisions that seek to improve the criminal justice system and reduce offender recidivism, which is why I am seriously considering supporting it. However, today’s procedural vote was designed to preclude amendments, including one I intended to offer to support victims of crime," Toomey said. 

The amendment votes are expected to be held with a simple majority threshold, meaning at least a few GOP senators would need to join with all Democrats to block them from getting added to the bill. 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTumultuous court battle upends fight for Senate McConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden MORE (D-Ill.), who helped craft the deal along with Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCollins says she will vote 'no' on Supreme Court nominee before election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, GOP allies prepare for SCOTUS nomination this week Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year MORE (R-Iowa) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package McConnell tries to unify GOP Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-Utah), warned that, as currently drafted, he believes Cotton's amendments are "poison pills" meant to undercut the legislation as a whole.

"The amendments that he will propose tomorrow, the senator from Arkansas, have been opposed by groups across the board, left and right, conservative, progressive, Republican, Democrat, they all oppose his amendments. ... If he goes with the amendments we've seen, we're going to have to do our best to oppose him," Durbin said.