tv U.S. Senate Chuck Grassley on Criminal Justice CSPAN December 18, 2018 9:49am-10:01am EST
that he will take a more constructive approach. if he goes with the amendments that we've seen we're going to have to do our best to oppose him. some are going to suggest this bill, that the jount lying bill doesn't go far enough on the mandatory sentencing, i agree. that's the nature of legislation and compromise is all about. republican controlled senate is considering a bill by senators from both sides of the aisle and we have a chance to do something. congress should make this bipartisan legislation a fitting ending to this year. for all of the cynicism and skept vichl what congress can achieve. we can prove as soon as tam with one of the changes in our nation, that we can do the job of this nation.
the people expect nothing else. madam president, i yield the floor. >> we're here to begin debate on a piece of legislation called the first step act of 2018. this happens to be the most significant criminal justice reform bill in a generation. our country is based upon the rule of law. if someone commits a crime, they should be punished and that punishment should be severe enough to deter others from committing crimes. but for our criminal justin system to serve our society well, it has to do more than punish and deter. recitivism rates are far too high and drive crime rates up.
in the federal system, returning within eight years and commit new crimes. we must have have that leave behind their criminal past and become productive citizens when they leave the prison system. we also need to make sure that criminal sentences are tough enough to punish and deter, but not be unjustly harsh. sentences should not destroy redemption for inmates willing to get right with the law. the first step act is tough on crime, but it's also fair. to tackle the high recidivism
rates in the country. that reduces recidivism levels at the state level. texas, georgia, mississippi, many others to justify that fact. the bill provides incentives for inmates willing to put in the work to complete these programs. under this bill a prisoner may earn ten times of time credit for every 30 days of successful participation, which they can apply towards pre release custody. however, access to these incentives is only available to those who pose little risk of committing new crimes. the first step act requires the bureau of prisons to implement a risk assessment system to determine an inmate's risk of
returning to crime after prison. access to the earned time credits is limited to those who pose a minimum or low risk. the bill also makes clear that violent and high risk criminals convicted of certain serious offenses are ineligible for the pre release custody program. the list of disqualifying crimes, terrorism, exploitation of children, gun crimes, others listed in the bill. all fentanyl traffickers are disqualified whatsoever for earning time credits. the bill also makes sentencing fair by returning some discretion to judges during
sentencing. some have called for eliminating mandatory minimums or cutting them back severely. i happen to be a supporter of mandatory minimum sentences because it helps law enforcement take down criminal enterprises, but at the same time, i recognize that there's some unfairness in how these mandatory minimum sentences are sometimes applied. the first step act leaves in place these maximum sentences, but also addressing overly harsh and mandatory sentences for certain nonviolent offenders. knocking of offenders for needlessly long prison sentences, diverse resources
that are needed elsewhere to fight crime. to address this, the first step act makes a number of changes to sentencing guidelines. first, the legislation clarifies that enhanced penalties for using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug crime should be reserved for repeat offenders of such crimes. that's what congress had intended when it created the enhanced penalty in the first place. second, the bill would reduce the three strike penalty for life imprisonment to 25 years. the 20-year minimum is reduced to 15 years. the bill also broadens the mandatory penalties, applying them to more of the worst criminals. third, the bill provides for
more judicial discretion by expanding the existing safety, federal safety valve to include more low level, nonviolent offenders. consistent with the existing law, the judge cannot apply the safety valve unless the defendant has fully cooperated with law enforcement. and lastly, the bill also allows for the retroactive application of the fair sentencing act of 2010 which reduced the 101 disparate in sentencing, between crack and powdered cocaine. i want to acknowledge president trump's leadership on criminal justice reform. without the president's engagement we wouldn't be here today. so the president deserves
credit for brokering a deal that improves fairness and supports law enforcement, a tremendous amount of credit is also due to my colleagues in the senate who helped to forge a bipartisan compromise on complex issues. and emphasize bipartisan compromise because the people at the grass roots of america even my state of iowa thinks there isn't much bipartisanship that goes on here and i'd especially like to thank my colleague senator durbin, he's been a partner through the entire process. my bipartisan co-sponsors, senator lee who has done a tremendous amount of work on this and in fact, started with durbin before i even got involved, but we also have co-sponsorship by booker, graham, whitehouse, scout, feinstein, cornyn and leahy.
these all deserve praise for reaching this deal. the product of years of negotiating and listening to each other is a bill that will reduce crime, strengthen faith in our judicial system, support law enforcement and give thousands of people a better shot at living a good life. so, as we go to this very important first vote on this bill, to invoke cloture, i urge all of my colleagues to join with president trump and our bipartisan coalition of supporters to support the first step act. i field the floor. >> this very government under which we live was created in the spirit of compromise and mutual concession.
>> thomas jefferson questioned the need for senate. >> the founders believed-- >> let's follow the constitution. >> framers established the senate to protect people from their rulers and as a check on the house. >> the fate of this country and maybe even the world lies in the hands of congress and the united states senate. >> the senate, conflict and compromise, a c-span original production, exploring the history, traditions, and roles of this uniquely american institution. >> please raise your right hand. >> wednesday, january 2nd, at 8 p.m. eastern, and pacific, on c-span. c-span. >> next on c-span2 we'll go live to the u.s. senate, today a bill aimed at reducing the rate of recidivism.
although the government to be passed is yet to be announced we're expecting senators to speak on it on the floor today. now coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, how brief is the span of human life when compared to the enormity of your univers?