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

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates 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 John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives To avoid November catastrophe, Democrats have to KO Sanders 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 GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE (R-S.C.) said last week that he wanted to fold the two issues together, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds McCarthy: White House coronavirus funding request 'a little low' Schumer requesting .5 billion in emergency funding on coronavirus MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, warned against attaching the measure to a spending package.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonAsian caucus urges fellow lawmakers not to 'perpetuate racist stereotypes' amid coronavirus fears Overnight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Top general: More closures at US bases in Europe possible as coronavirus spreads 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.