Grassley: McConnell owes me for judicial nominations

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE (R-Iowa) said Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet 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 TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 DurbinGOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi Senate Democrats block government spending bill Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw 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 signals unease with Barr's gun plan Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Trump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP 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.