The First Step Act, a historic piece of legislation that would provide recidivism reduction programs for non-violent and low-risk offenders and create modest sentencing reforms, has the support of a broadly bipartisan coalition of thousands. Despite the rare support behind the bill, some critics will do anything to prevent the bill from becoming law.

Americans for Tax Reform supports the First Step Act. As President, Grover Norquist, said:

“The costs, human and monetary, are too high to not pass the bill. Hugely long sentences for non-violent offenders ruin lives and families and drain taxpayer dollars. Senators should wholeheartedly support the FIRST STEP Act so it becomes law before the end of 2018.

This is the “first step” in bringing reform to a broken, expensive system. The reform will increase public safety by using proven methods to reduce recidivism, effectively driving down the prevalence and cost of crime for generations to come.”

We are optimistic because last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) filed cloture on the motion to concur to the House amendment to S. 756, which will serve as the vehicle for the First Step Act.

Unfortunately, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) proposed three poison-pill amendments, which would derail the bill and negatively impact public safety. 

Americans for Tax Reform and Digital Liberty signed onto a coalition letter opposing the amendments proposed by Senators Cotton and Kennedy.

The letter explains that,

The amendments proposed by Senators Cotton and Kennedy will weaken what would otherwise be a significant step towards making our federal prisons more accountable and results-oriented. Beyond substance, however, they are political “poison pills.” The changes proposed are intended to upset the delicate balance found by stakeholders in both chambers, in both parties, and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. We urge you to oppose the Cotton-Kennedy amendments to the First Step Act.”

The Cotton/Kennedy amendments would ultimately disincentivize recidivism reduction programming and harm public safety. We call for all senators to oppose these amendments and to vote yes on the First Step Act as written.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Senate and has more than 30 co-sponsors from both parties. The House version of the bill, which includes the recidivism reduction programming, is sponsored by Congressman Doug Collins (R- Ga.) in the House (H.R.5682) and has a bipartisan array of cosponsors. The House overwhelmingly passed the FIRST STEP Act in May under a 360-59 favorable vote. On December 13, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on the bill but it awaits further action on the Senate floor.

Americans for Tax Reform supports passage of the First Step Act without these amendments.