Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE on Friday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight MORE (R-Ky.) to bring a bipartisan criminal justice reform package up for a vote as influential GOP senators pressure McConnell to take up the legislation this month.

The bill, which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some federal offenses and expand rehabilitation services, is supported by the White House and many senators, but faces opposition from some conservative senators including Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSenate rejects border declaration in major rebuke of Trump Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (R-Ark.).

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"Hopefully Mitch McConnell will ask for a VOTE on Criminal Justice Reform. It is extremely popular and has strong bipartisan support," Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.

"It will also help a lot of people, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe. Go for it Mitch!" he added.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Drug prices are a matter of life and death Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices MORE (R-Iowa), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has publicly pushed McConnell to hold a vote on the package before the end of the year, tweeted Friday afternoon that he spoke with Trump about the bill.

Grassley wrote that Trump "told me he wants it done" before Congress adjourns for the year.

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCNN town halls put network at center of Dem primary The Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge Michael Bennet 'encouraged' in possible presidential bid: report MORE (R-Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (R-N.C.) on Friday also came out in support of the bill, which was created with input from White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerClinton and Ocasio-Cortez joke about Kushner's alleged use of WhatsApp Hillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism Cummings says Ivanka Trump not preserving all official communications MORE

Cruz said in a statement that the White House and GOP sponsors of the bill have decided to accept an amendment he drafted "that would exclude violent offenders from being released early."

The Senate legislation merges a House-passed prison reform bill aimed at reducing recidivism with four changes to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. While wide-ranging in its changes to the federal justice system, the law would only affect federal inmates, a small portion of America's total incarcerated population.

McConnell has insisted that he will only bring up the legislation if it has enough support from Republicans to pass, while GOP senators backing the bill have argued that it has support to pass should it be taken up this month.

Supporters argue the bill has roughly 30 Republican backers, but it's run into a wall of opposition among conservatives, including Cotton and Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), and concerns from the high-profile National Sheriffs' Association. 

Still, advocates and the White House have been increasing public pressure on Republican leadership as they try to get the bill to the floor this year as they are quickly running out of time. Congress has 10 working days until the Dec. 21 funding deadline, and lawmakers would like to skip town before then if possible. 

During a Wall Street Journal event this week, McConnell warned that the criminal justice bill was "extremely controversial" and could eat up to 10 days of the Senate's schedule, time that he doesn't have as he tries to fund the government, pass a farm bill and manage an unwieldy debate over the U.S.'s involvement in Yemen's civil war. 

“It’s extremely divisive inside the Senate Republican conference. In fact there are more members in my conference that are either against it or undecided than are for it,” McConnell added.

He added that with House Democrats taking over the majority in January he was "pretty confident" that it could pass in 2019.

But senators who back the legislation worry that Democrats will try to reopen negotiations and push to include broader sentencing reforms that Senate Republicans, who are increasing their majority by 2 — going from 51 seats to 53 seats — won't support.

They've been locked in negotiations about possible changes they could make to the bill to shore up Republican support, including adding to the list of crimes that would exclude an individual from "earned time" credits, which shave time off an individual's sentence. 
 
Grassley and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (D-Ill.), who drafted the Senate's compromise, have also discussed nixing a provision that would expand a safety valve that gives judges discretion to go around mandatory minimums in some cases.
 
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Trump can't let go of McCain grudge The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans Trump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP MORE (R-S.C.) said Thursday that he expected a new version of the bill to be unveiled in a matter of "days," which would incorporate some of the changes made to accommodate wary Republicans. 
 
Graham said on Friday morning in a tweet that he had "just talked" with Trump, adding that the president "strongly believes criminal justice reform bill must pass now."