Grassley: McConnell owes me for judicial nominations

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin MORE (R-Iowa) said Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Trump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Union leader says Green New Deal would make infrastructure bill ‘absolutely impossible’ MORE (R-Ky.) should get on board with criminal justice reform legislation, arguing the Senate leader owes him for a wave of judicial nominations.

Grassley noted that Republicans have been successful at confirming Trump's judicial picks — including two Supreme Court nominees and a record number of appeals judges — adding that he felt he was owed "reciprocity" for his role in shepherding the nominees as Judiciary Committee chairman.

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"I look at this in a very personal way, Sen. McConnell and I have had a very close working relationship on judges. We've been very very successful. … 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 added that after President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE threw his support behind the criminal justice legislation, McConnell "ought to be helping the president get his program through."

Grassley's comments come as he and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-Ill.) work to lock down support for forthcoming legislation that will merge a House-passed prison reform bill with a handful of changes to sentencing and mandatory minimum sentences.

The issue has been stuck in the Senate for years, despite having support from former President Obama, because of opposition from a small, but vocal, group of Republican senators. Supporters say they've had 60 votes for previous criminal justice reform bills, but McConnell has refused to bring them to the floor — a move that would have put a spotlight on divisions within the Senate Republican caucus.

McConnell was noncommittal when asked about the issue on Wednesday, saying supporters needed to show them they had the votes for the bill, which has not been introduced yet, to pass and then, once they did that, Republican leadership would weigh the bill against other end-of-the-year issues including preventing a partial government shutdown.

“We don’t have a lot of time left," McConnell said. "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 and then see how it stacks up against our other priorities going into the end of the session."

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Inviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee and majority whip, echoed McConnell on Thursday noting senators don't have a lot of time until the end of the year.

“I would just note the obvious, and that is the short period of time we have during the lame-duck session," he said.