McConnell Tells White House Prison Bill Unlikely This Year

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Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling allies there is little chance that the Senate will consider a bipartisan sentencing-prisons bill in the waning days of year, even as his own Republicans say there is more than enough support for the legislation favored by President Trump, the Washington Post reports. Despite pressure from the president, McConnell (R-KY) has told White House officials and others close to him that a vote is unlikely. One McConnell adviser said the senator does not intend to have a vote on the legislation because he does not have enough time and is more focused on other things — like funding the government and confirming judges.  “He doesn’t like the bill,” Republican donor Doug Deason, a key White House ally, said. Referring to the former attorney general, Deason added: “He’s a Jeff Sessions-style, lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key kind of guy.”

White House officials say McConnell doesn’t want a vote unless the overwhelming majority of Republicans will vote for it. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) said this week that 28 or 30 GOP senators support the bill. There are 51 Senate Republicans, and nearly all of the 49 Senate Democrats — if not all — are expected to back it. “It’s extremely divisive inside the Senate Republican conference,” said McConnell, who deplores fights that split his ranks. Lawmakers must take up a farm bill extension and legislation to fund parts of the government before the end of the year, and McConnell would also like to confirm as many judges as possible before then. McConnell’s reluctance has frustrated White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who believes the votes are there but that McConnell is dragging his feet. Kushner has ramped up his push among senators, sending out a thick packet of material promoting the bill to Senate Republican offices.

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