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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column on US criminal justice reform, in which I railed against Mitch McConnell’s apparently steadfast refusal to allow a bi-partisan reform bill called the First Step Act to come to the floor for a vote:

Most observers were certain Mitch was going to run out the clock on this year’s lame duck session, and then let the bill die a quiet death, despite the broad support that existed for the legislation in both parties, both chambers of Congress, and even the White House. It just seemed inexplicably bloody-minded.

Well, last night, Brian Williams noted at the end of his show that the Bill had just passed in the Senate, by a vote of 87-12! I’m not sure, as I write this, how this came about, whether Mitch never really meant to kill it after all, or had a crisis of conscience (surely not), or made a concession amidst legislative horse-trading, but whatever, I’ll take it! The Bill will now proceed to the House, where it’s expected to pass without incident. Trump has promised to sign it.

How often do we get such an opportunity to applaud the work of Congress? Kudos all around to the elephants and donkeys that made this happen. The Bill doesn’t quite amount to “sweeping reform”, as its own name suggests, but it’s a worthy and humane thing, and its passage serves as a nice reminder that politicians can act together in good faith to do something decent, even today.


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