SPONSORED:

GOP fights piling up for McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-Ky.) has a difficult two weeks ahead of him as he tries to navigate disputes within his conference over the lame-duck Congress’s final legislative goals.

McConnell, who prides himself in working with his Republican colleagues and allowing the GOP conference to work its will, finds himself in the middle of an increasingly public and bitter battle over criminal justice reform that pits President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBiden to speak with Saudi king 'soon' as pressure builds for Khashoggi report Biden to speak with Saudi king ahead of Khashoggi report: report Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee against a group of conservatives opposed to the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT

The GOP leader is also at the center of a fight over Saudi Arabia, with some Republicans demanding tough legislation in response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The criminal justice reform bill is turning into the biggest headache for McConnell.

The White House is clamoring for the legislation, with Kushner, a White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, set to highlight it during an appearance Monday night on Sean Hannity’s television show on Fox News.

Trump has personally called out McConnell, urging him to allow a vote on the legislation. The efforts portend new complaints directed toward the GOP leader if the president doesn’t get his way.

Separately, and perhaps most importantly to McConnell, tensions appear to be building with Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation MORE (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee chairman who has publicly said the GOP leader owes him a vote on the bill, given his efforts to shepherd through a record number of appeals court judges and two Supreme Court nominees.

Grassley was blunt on Monday in responding to a question about McConnell. “Let’s put it this way, I’m frustrated,” he said.

Last week, Grassley touted his efforts on judicial nominations, McConnell’s top priority.

“I think I’ve delivered pretty well, more judges than any previous president has gotten in their first two years, two new Supreme Court justices. We’ve worked together on that so maybe I should have some consideration for that, but beyond that it seems to me we’re never going to get all of the judges done between now and Christmas,” Grassley said at a recent Washington Post event.

The legislation would merge a House-passed prison reform bill aimed at decreasing recidivism with a handful of changes to sentencing laws and mandatory minimums. Supporters are expected to introduce the final version of the bill imminently, with changes aimed at winning over more Republican supporters.

McConnell and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees MORE (R-Texas), his No. 2, say less than half the caucus supports the criminal justice legislation. The bill’s supporters say McConnell and Cornyn are lowballing the whip count.

Cornyn hit back at critics on Monday, saying they didn’t understand “how actual legislation gets passed.”

“My job as whip is to give Leader McConnell an accurate count of where the conference is because he doesn’t want to ever put anything on the floor and be surprised,” Cornyn added.

But he also said adding the bill to legislation funding the rest of the government remained a possibility.

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

Doing so, however, would intensify an already difficult fight. Supporters, including Grassley, have publicly blamed concerns about infighting and not making incumbents take a tough vote as one of the roadblocks for previous criminal justice bills, which they also believed had 60 votes.

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Trump seeks to cement hold on GOP Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues MORE (R-Ark.) warned Friday that any attempt to add the criminal justice bill to the funding measure would force Congress to work through the Christmas holiday and risk a partial government shutdown.

“Only thing worse than early release from prison of thousands of serious, violent, & repeat felons is to do that in a spending bill with no debate or amendments, forcing senators to either shut down government or let felons out of prison,” Cotton said in a tweet.

The funding bill is already at an impasse over Trump’s demand that it include $5 billion in funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, something Democrats are rejecting. The legislation will need support from Democrats to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, and may need Democratic votes in the House, too.

Leadership has fewer than 10 full working days until the Dec. 21 government funding deadline.

The Senate is expected to take up a resolution aimed at forcing Trump to end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen as soon as Wednesday.

The measure — from Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees MORE (D-Conn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill NFL's Justin Jackson praises Sanders for opposing Biden's USDA nominee MORE (I-Vt.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Haaland on drilling lease moratorium: 'It's not going to be a permanent thing' MORE (R-Utah) — would require Trump to withdraw any troops in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda.

Though 14 Republicans voted late last month to kick the resolution to the full Senate, it’s expected to advance this week over the objection of most GOP senators — including McConnell, who voted against advancing the measure out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Because supporters are using the War Powers Act, they can effectively force McConnell’s hand as long as enough Republicans join with the 49-member Democratic caucus to give them a simple majority. Lee is the only formal Republican co-sponsor, but both supporters and opponents believe they’ll have the votes to jam the resolution through the Senate this week even if only a handful of Republicans vote for the bill.