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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight MORE (R-Ky.) announced this week that he would turn to the legislation backed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 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.