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GOP Senator Warns It's Now or Never for Criminal Justice Reform

11-29-2018
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WASHINGTON – The clock is ticking on legislative days left this year, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working hard to get a historic criminal justice reform bill passed before the year ends.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tells CBN News that in his eight years of working on a comprehensive reform bill in the Senate, they've never been closer than they are right now to sending a bill to the president's desk.

"If it is brought forward it will pass and pass overwhelmingly with a bipartisan supermajority vote of at least 65 if not 70 or 80," said Sen. Lee.

The bill, Lee explains, helps prisoners return to society and addresses excessive sentences already passed the House. It can only pass the Senate if it gets a vote. 

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) faces pressure from the president to bring it to the Senate floor, he has made clear his top priorities for the end of the year are funding the government and passing the farm bill.

Lee told CBN News that if it doesn't pass this year, it's over.

"With the incoming Democratic class of House of Representatives, they'd demand something more exacting than what could pass in the Senate or would likely be signed into law by President (Donald) Trump," cautioned Lee. "If we want to get criminal justice reform done, not only should we do it in time for it to be a Christmas gift for the American people, but we should do it before the clock runs out on this Congress."

McConnell also put to rest any talk of Republicans making one more attempt at repealing Obamacare in the lame duck session, telling reporters it's now a bipartisan issue. For now, he's focused on reaching a spending compromise on border security that President Trump will sign.

"We're trying to get the president the money he would like for the wall," said McConnell.

Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed on $1.6 billion going towards border security before Thanksgiving, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argues that's not nearly enough now that the migrant caravan is at the southern border.

"Securing the border is going to be a bottom line for the president," said Graham. "He's got a $25 billion plan. I don't think he expects to get $25 billion all at once, but he does expect to get $5 billion like the House authorized without a bunch of strings attached."

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gave no indication he'll budge.

"The $1.6 billion for border security negotiated by Democrats and Republicans is our position," Schumer said Tuesday. "We believe that is the right way to go."

Lawmakers have until Dec. 7 to reach a spending agreement or we could see a partial government shut down.

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