Grassley: McConnell owes me for judicial nominations

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending On The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Canada, Mexico lift tariffs on US goods after Trump scraps steel, aluminum levies MORE (R-Iowa) said Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure 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 DurbinLet's stop treating student borrowers like second-class citizens Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group 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 CornynGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate 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.