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

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump, Democrats clinch two-year budget deal Overnight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Bipartisan senators fight 'political considerations' in EPA's new FOIA rule 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 Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota 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 McConnellGrassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana 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 says he will call Papadopoulos to testify GOP group defends Mueller ahead of testimony The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony MORE (R-S.C.) said last week that he wanted to fold the two issues together, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyTrump, Democrats clinch two-year budget deal The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, warned against attaching the measure to a spending package.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonLawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Five things to know about Iran's breaches of the nuclear deal Hillicon Valley: Trump gets pushback after reversing course on Huawei | China installing surveillance apps on visitors' phones | Internet provider Cloudflare suffers outage | Consumer groups look to stop Facebook cryptocurrency 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.