McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year

Stefani Reynolds
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reportedly warning that it’s unlikely that the Senate will take up bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation this year because of a tight floor schedule. 
McConnell told President Trump during a White House meeting Thursday that there likely would not be enough time to give the bill a vote, sources familiar with the closed-door meeting told The New York Times
The meeting came a day after Trump endorsed the new criminal justice legislation, which pairs a House-passed prison reform bill with four sentencing provisions. Trump praised the bipartisan nature of the effort and urged lawmakers to quickly send him a bill saying he was waiting “pen in hand.” 
{mosads}But Trump’s backing hasn’t won over conservatives opposed to the legislation or improved the lukewarm reception the bill received from GOP leadership. 
A White House spokesman on Friday directed questions about the meeting to McConnell’s office. Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, noted that The Times story is “based entirely on anonymous sources” and pointed to McConnell’s public comments about the prospects of voting on a criminal justice bill this year. 
Asked if a bill could get a vote before Congress wraps up its work for the year, McConnell noted to reporters on Wednesday that the Senate had other bills that needed to be passed and not a lot of time. 
McConnell said supporters needed to introduce the bill, make sure it had the 60 votes needed to pass and then leadership would “weigh it at that point against the other things that absolutely have to be accomplished, once of which is how we’re going to fund the government. The other is a farm bill.” 
“We don’t have a whole lot of time left,” he said, adding that they would see “how it stacks up against our other priorities.” 
If McConnell could get every senator to agree the Senate could move the bill fairly quickly, otherwise he would have to commit to eating up days of floor time if they wanted to get the criminal justice bill through. 
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a close ally of Trump’s, said Friday that he would not support the bill. And Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Thursday that he would object if leadership tries to skip over procedural hurdles on the floor. 
McConnell refused to give previous, broader criminal justice bills a vote on the Senate floor and Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) indicated this week they viewed him as the biggest obstacle to getting a vote this year. 
Durbin, asked what it would take to get the bill through the Senate, said the decision was up to McConnell, who controls the Senate floor. He also warned that if the issue is kicked to next year House Democrats, who will be in the majority, could try to renegotiate the legislation. 
Grassley separately argued that McConnell owes him after he’s helped shepherd two Supreme Court justices and dozens of appellate court nominees in his role as Judiciary Committee chairman.  
“We’ve made history and we’ve got two good people on the Supreme Court and I would like reciprocity from the leader on what I’ve done in our unified effort to get judges,” Grassley said.
Grassley on Friday questioned if McConnell and other GOP senators were going to “stand in Pres Trump’s way” by kicking criminal justice reform to next year, adding that there is “plenty of time” to pass the bill this year.

“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?” Grassley said in a tweet.

Grassley in a separate tweet asked if Republicans would rather negotiate with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), adding that Trump has a “golden opportunity” this year. 
Tags Chuck Grassley Criminal justice reform Dick Durbin Donald Trump John Kennedy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Tom Cotton
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