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

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race 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: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' 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 McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 GrahamTrump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran Trump: Anonymous news sources are 'bulls---' Trump: 'Good chance' Dems give immigration 'win' after Pelosi called White House plan 'dead on arrival' MORE (R-S.C.) said last week that he wanted to fold the two issues together, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCongressional leaders to launch budget talks with White House Democrats agree to humanitarian aid for border as part of disaster package On The Money: New financial disclosures provide glimpse of Trump's wealth | Walmart, Macy's say tariffs will mean price hikes | Consumer agency says Education Department blocking student loan oversight MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, warned against attaching the measure to a spending package.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senator: Supreme Court abortion cases were 'wrongly decided as a constitutional matter' Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips Cotton: US could win war with Iran in 'two strikes' 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.