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Cornyn opens door to including criminal justice bill in government funding measure

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Biden gets involved to help break Senate logjam Overnight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels MORE (R-Texas) said Monday there could be a “path” to linking a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill to year-end spending bill talks if more Republicans come on board.

“I think we still have a window,” Cornyn told reporters when asked about the chances of passing the legislation this month.

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The No. 2 Senate Republican added that the time to get a bill to President TrumpDonald TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE’s desk this year is “fleeting,” but he’s involved in talks about how to get more support from the Republican conference.

“I could see a way where this gets put on a year-end spending bill, but ... we’ve still got to do some work,” Cornyn added.

The measure would take the House-passed prison reform bill and attach four provisions.

But how much support the Senate bill has within the chamber's Republican conference is a point of contention.

Cornyn reiterated Monday that more than half of the 51-member conference is undecided or opposed to the bill. Supporters, meanwhile, say that at least half of the conference and as many as 30 Republican senators are ready to vote for it.

Supporters are increasingly focusing their frustration on Cornyn accusing him of whipping the criminal justice bill differently and giving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  We need a voting rights workaround Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package MORE (R-Ky.) “bad advice” about the support the bill has within the conference.

Cornyn rebutted those critics on Monday, saying they weren’t privy to his talks with McConnell and weren’t familiar with how leadership measures support for a piece of legislation.

“Criticism from me is from people who either don’t understand what the job of the whip is or how actual legislation gets passed,” Cornyn said.

He added that “their energy is best channeled into trying to get more votes.”

Congress has until Dec. 21 to prevent a partial government shutdown by passing the seven remaining appropriations bills.

But attaching the criminal justice bill could spark pushback from conservatives, who are opposed to the legislation.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Sunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Georgia DA investigating Trump taps racketeering expert for probe: report MORE (R-S.C.) said last week that he wanted to fold the two issues together, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCBC 'unequivocally' endorses Shalanda Young for White House budget chief Black Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, warned against attaching the measure to a spending package.

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonLawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons Senate to vote next week on Garland's AG nomination Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants MORE (R-Ark.) said last week that dropping criminal justice reform into the spending bill would force Congress to work through the holidays.

“If the jailbreak bill gets stuck in the spending bill, everyone bring your stockings to the Senate, because we’ll be there on Christmas!” Cotton said in a tweet.

Updated at 5:03 p.m.