Steve Hilton: Trump's agenda includes the First Step Act. Do the right thing, Mr. McConnell and pass this bill
By Steve Hilton
Here's something important our friend Tezlyn Figaro said on last week's edition of our show:
"You have a crime bill right now that Senator Cory Booker is begging for people to get on board [with]. When we talk about mass incarceration - going from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million now. There are American citizens who are locked up right now but yet our concern is for those who are trying to break into America. But it is also important to point out that 97 percent of the people in jail took a plea deal because they did not have adequate representation. It's a group from the 90s. Hundreds of people were destroyed through Bill Clinton's crime bill and nothing's being told about that."
She's talking about the First Step Act, a historic reform of the criminal justice system that President Trump and his team have worked hard to negotiate. Here's what the president said on November 14:
"Today I'm thrilled to announce my support for this bipartisan bill that will make our communities safer and give former inmates a second chance at life after they have served their time, so important."
He's right and this is a major populist issue, just as much as immigration or trade.
Let's remember what positive populism is all about: pro-worker, pro-family, pro-community.
Bill Clinton's 1994 crime bill ended up incarcerating millions of working Americans --far too many of them African-Americans -- for far too long, hurting their ability to work and earn a living, contributing to family breakdown, and helping to tear apart the social fabric in our communities.
Turning that around is a fantastic accomplishment and leaders from all sides are on board.
You've got Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee who has said this:
"This bill would deal with that... It would tell judges that they've got discretion to actually be judges. ... It will make life better for millions of Americans who, one way or another, are affected by our federal criminal justice system.
You've got South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham:
"What we're talking about is basically creating a new sentencing system that will give African-American male and Hispanic male detainees a chance to get out of jail... it's the most important bipartisan piece of legislation in the Congress today."
You've got Democrats including Senators Dick Durbin and Cory Booker.
You've even got CNN's Van Jones, of all people. Check out this praise for President Trump:
"On this one, I'll give him a salute and applause. We've got to come together to help the people at the bottom. If you can't put politics aside to help people who are suffering and struggling in prison when there's a shot to do something on a bipartisan basis, then I think we've taken politics too far."
You'd think with all that support this bill would easily pass Congress. That's what the bill's sponsor, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is hoping. Here's his tweet:
"Dealmaker @realdonaldtrump can get a big bipartisan deal done this year on crim justice reform plenty of time to pass first step act in december will gop senators & ldr mcconnell stand in pres trump's way of achieving major bipartisan victory or join in historic + popular reform?"
And there's the problem. There's one hitch in all this: Mitch!
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to think his only job in life is confirming judges. Of course, that's vital. But so is President Trump's agenda and it would help if the Republican Senate Majority Leader could actually help pass it. But instead, he's blocking it.
He won't bring the First Step Act for a vote because... Well, it's not exactly clear:
"We don't have a whole lot of time left, but the first step is to finalize what proponents are actually for. There have been a lot of different versions floating around. And then we'll whip it and see where the vote count is."
Another objector is outgoing Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker. Here's what he's said: "A lot of people like me are still trying to understand what it does..."
He said there had only been a "higher level discussion of whether we should attempt to do it."
Hmmm. A higher level? I think the explanation is on a much lower level -- the one that Washington usually operates on: money.
Blocking this bill would leave more people in jail. Now, who would be most in favor of that?
The prison industry, of course.
And guess who's received more money from private prison companies than any other member of the Senate? That's right, good old Bob Corker. Don't bother wiping the mud off on your way out of the swamp, Senator.
And Mitch McConnell's opposition to this bill, which has mystified many people, makes a little more sense when you discover that he has received - wait for it - over half a million dollars from private prison companies and their financial interests over the years.
Never mind cocaine, Mitch. This is corrupt, Mitch.
Put people first, not donors.
Do the right thing.
Pass this bill!
Tell me what you think on Twitter @stevehiltonx and @next revefnc.Adapted from Steve Hilton's monologue on "The Next Revolution" on December 2, 2018.