GOP senator to block unanimous consent on criminal justice reform bill

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said Wednesday he will not allow the Senate’s criminal justice reform bill to move to the floor by unanimous consent, preventing the legislation from moving quickly to a final vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring MORE (R-Ky.) announced this week that he would turn to the legislation backed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE , even though it has divided his conference.

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The Senate can move through procedural votes quickly if every senator agrees, but Kennedy had previously said he would not do so on the criminal justice measure and his move was not a surprise. If Kennedy had not objected, it is likely another of the bill's opponents would have done so. 

Kennedy has previously said he does not believe there is enough time this year to properly vet a bill and demanded a hearing before any legislation is introduced.

“A dangerous person who is properly incarcerated can’t mug your sister,” Kennedy said in November. “My main concern about the legislation is public safety and I will be looking at it through a public safety lens. ...If we’re not careful with this, somebody is going to get killed.” 

McConnell warned lawmakers on Tuesday that they may have to be in session between Christmas and New Year's to finish their work unless senators agree to fast-track some items on their to-do list.

"Members should now be prepared to work between Christmas and New Year's, if necessary, to complete our work," McConnell said from the Senate floor.

"Unless we approach all this work in a highly collaborative, productive way and take real advantage of unanimous consent to expedite proceedings, it is virtually certain that the Senate will need to be in session between Christmas and New Year's in order to complete this work," he said.