John Cornyn Will Whip the Criminal Justice Bill, But It’s Competing With Border Wall, Farm Bill and Judges

Vote count starting Tuesday could prove important to prospects for passage

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he will be counting votes on the criminal justice bill this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he will be counting votes on the criminal justice bill this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 26, 2018 at 4:42pm

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Monday that he hopes there will be time on the floor for a bipartisan criminal justice overhaul before the end of the Congress, but he also said there is going to be a time crunch.

“We’re going to whip that starting tomorrow,” the Texas Republican said, adding that advocates need to give Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a better sense of the scale of the support. The legislation has not been on the top of the priority list for the majority leader.

The floor schedule for the few remaining weeks is a bit convoluted, a point that Cornyn emphasized on Monday.

“It looks like we’re going to have to vote on the Yemen resolution by Sen. [Bernie Sanders], the — of course the farm bill, we’ve got some judges we’ve got to confirm and we’ve also got to deal with border security issue, and maybe a criminal justice reform bill,” Cornyn said. “So we’ve got a lot of competition for a limited period of time.”

The border funding situation is wrapped up with the effort to finish off the final seven regular appropriation bills for fiscal 2019.

Cornyn is finishing up his tenure as majority whip, with conference term limits leaving him without the formal no. 2 role in the next Congress.

With respect to Yemen, Cornyn was talking about a resolution to remove U.S. forces from fighting in the conflict that has been a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to brief senators on the matter on Wednesday, ahead of the potential vote later in the week.

“I see Gen. Mattis and Sec. Pompeo and the administration made some changes in terms of what American support we’re providing to the Saudis,” Cornyn told reporters. “I hope we don’t give Iran a pass in Yemen, but I’m certainly up to listening how we can better address the humanitarian crisis which certainly exists there, but I don’t want to give Iran a pass.”

But senators attending the closed briefing will most likely want to ask about the responsibility of Saudi Arabia in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

President Donald Trump has thus far not publicly accepted the reported finding of responsibility by U.S. intelligence, which has implicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.