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

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left 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 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’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 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.) “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 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 last week that he wanted to fold the two issues together, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive takeaways from Trump's budget Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump unveils 2020 budget | Calls for cuts to NIH | Proposes user fees on e-cigs | Azar heads to Capitol to defend blueprint | Key drug price bill gets hearing this week Trump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, warned against attaching the measure to a spending package.

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.) 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.