Grassley: McConnell owes me for judicial nominations

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill MORE (R-Iowa) said Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump finds himself isolated in shutdown fight Pelosi faces pressure to act on Saudi Arabia Make the First Step Act a smarter step by opening the risk assessment black box 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 TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation 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 DurbinBipartisan senators doubt ruling striking down ObamaCare Durbin: Attorneys general who led ObamaCare lawsuit 'didn’t do the Republican Party any favor' Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill 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 CornynTrump finds himself isolated in shutdown fight Trump risks clash with Congress over Chinese executive GOP set for blame over shutdown 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.