Trump tells McConnell to let Senate vote on criminal justice reform

President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE on Friday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Mellman: Why does the GOP persist? Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-Ky.) to bring a bipartisan criminal justice reform package up for a vote as influential GOP senators pressure McConnell to take up the legislation this month.

The bill, which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some federal offenses and expand rehabilitation services, is supported by the White House and many senators, but faces opposition from some conservative senators including Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions How not to withdraw from Syria MORE (R-Ark.).

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"Hopefully Mitch McConnell will ask for a VOTE on Criminal Justice Reform. It is extremely popular and has strong bipartisan support," Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.

"It will also help a lot of people, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe. Go for it Mitch!" he added.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Five things to watch during Barr’s confirmation hearing McConnell rebukes Steve King over white nationalist comments MORE (R-Iowa), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has publicly pushed McConnell to hold a vote on the package before the end of the year, tweeted Friday afternoon that he spoke with Trump about the bill.

Grassley wrote that Trump "told me he wants it done" before Congress adjourns for the year.

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Republicans seek to temper fallout from latest Russia bombshells Cruz says Americans outside Beltway unconcerned with Mueller investigation MORE (R-Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE (R-N.C.) on Friday also came out in support of the bill, which was created with input from White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey Kushner'Vice' director shrugs off report that Ivanka and Jared walked out of screening Chris Christie claims Jared Kushner enacted 'hit job' as revenge for prosecuting father White House announces reduced delegation to travel to Davos amid shutdown MORE

Cruz said in a statement that the White House and GOP sponsors of the bill have decided to accept an amendment he drafted "that would exclude violent offenders from being released early."

The Senate legislation merges a House-passed prison reform bill aimed at reducing recidivism with four changes to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. While wide-ranging in its changes to the federal justice system, the law would only affect federal inmates, a small portion of America's total incarcerated population.

McConnell has insisted that he will only bring up the legislation if it has enough support from Republicans to pass, while GOP senators backing the bill have argued that it has support to pass should it be taken up this month.

Supporters argue the bill has roughly 30 Republican backers, but it's run into a wall of opposition among conservatives, including Cotton and Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), and concerns from the high-profile National Sheriffs' Association. 

Still, advocates and the White House have been increasing public pressure on Republican leadership as they try to get the bill to the floor this year as they are quickly running out of time. Congress has 10 working days until the Dec. 21 funding deadline, and lawmakers would like to skip town before then if possible. 

During a Wall Street Journal event this week, McConnell warned that the criminal justice bill was "extremely controversial" and could eat up to 10 days of the Senate's schedule, time that he doesn't have as he tries to fund the government, pass a farm bill and manage an unwieldy debate over the U.S.'s involvement in Yemen's civil war. 

“It’s extremely divisive inside the Senate Republican conference. In fact there are more members in my conference that are either against it or undecided than are for it,” McConnell added.

He added that with House Democrats taking over the majority in January he was "pretty confident" that it could pass in 2019.

But senators who back the legislation worry that Democrats will try to reopen negotiations and push to include broader sentencing reforms that Senate Republicans, who are increasing their majority by 2 — going from 51 seats to 53 seats — won't support.

They've been locked in negotiations about possible changes they could make to the bill to shore up Republican support, including adding to the list of crimes that would exclude an individual from "earned time" credits, which shave time off an individual's sentence. 
 
Grassley and Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump AG pick: I won't be 'bullied' by anyone, including the president Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Senate Dems set to take aim at new Trump attorney general pick MORE (D-Ill.), who drafted the Senate's compromise, have also discussed nixing a provision that would expand a safety valve that gives judges discretion to go around mandatory minimums in some cases.
 
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ AG pick Barr emphasizes independence from Trump Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE (R-S.C.) said Thursday that he expected a new version of the bill to be unveiled in a matter of "days," which would incorporate some of the changes made to accommodate wary Republicans. 
 
Graham said on Friday morning in a tweet that he had "just talked" with Trump, adding that the president "strongly believes criminal justice reform bill must pass now."