Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE on Friday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence 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 CottonGOP senator says he suggested Greenland purchase to Trump, met with Danish ambassador It's time to empower military families with education freedom Cotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation' 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 GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord 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 CruzIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? GOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE (R-Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies 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 KushnerTrump allies say A$AP Rocky was supposed to thank him but his team stopped 'returning our text messages': report President tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' 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 Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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 GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death 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."