Tag Archives: administration

Immigrants’ rights must be protected from further attack

Earthjustice, Sierra Club, NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife are calling for an end to the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants. Earthjustice also is supporting the Bridge Act, which would extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals for three years.

The statement from Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen:

Earthjustice holds as a foundational principle that every human being has a fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment.

Inherent in that right is the ability to participate in democratic decision-making affecting one’s health and access to a fair and impartial judiciary to ensure that the laws and rules meant to protect public health and the environment are enforced with fairness and equality.

Unfortunately, millions of individuals are denied this ability to protect their own health and that of their children because to do so would risk retaliation, incarceration, deportation and separation from their families.

The short-sighted measures taken yesterday by the Trump administration will bring dire consequences and compromise the future of mixed-status households with U.S. citizens who depend on their undocumented family members and share the fears, apprehensions, and exclusions with their loved ones.

In 2014, we applauded the Obama administration for taking steps to eliminate the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants who have become an intrinsic part of our communities and the nation as a whole. Their contributions to this country exemplify the best in our values. We stand firmly by the belief that without the fear of intimidation or removal, immigrant communities will be better positioned to stand up for their fundamental rights, including a right to a safe and healthy environment for their families. To shut down their voices by planting fear with ill-conceived walls, counterproductive enforcement procedures, and by trying to defund sanctuary cities undermines basic rights and is inherently un-American.

Rather than try to tear families and communities apart, the administration and Congress should step up to its responsibility to provide relief. This is why we are joining in solidarity with our partners in the Latino and civil rights community in urging Congress to pass the “BRIDGE Act;” a bill that would provide Dreamers with a temporary reprieve from deportation on terms similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

This bill would protect many of the millions of aspiring Americans whose ability to secure justice and thrive is hampered by their immigration status. Immigrants play a fundamental role in our country, they live, work, and pray among us yet they are forced to remain in the shadows.  Silence and inaction are breeding grounds for injustice, and Earthjustice will not stand by while this reality continues.

RESISTANCE: Scientists go rogue on Twitter in defiance of Trump

Employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial “rogue” Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

Seizing on Trump’s favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts — borrowing names and logos of their agencies — to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.

“Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS,” one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService.

“You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!”

The @RogueNASA account displayed an introductory disclaimer describing it as “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA. Not an official NASA account.”

It beckoned readers to follow its feed “for science and climate news and facts. REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS.”

The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump’s inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.

Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.

The restrictions have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change skeptic, is out to squelch federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.

The resistance movement gained steam on Tuesday when a series of climate change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.

A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post public safety and park information only, and to avoid national policy issues.

Within hours, unofficial “resistance” or “rogue” Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked, the list growing to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.

An account dubbed @ungaggedEPA invited followers to visit its feeds of “ungagged news, links, tips and conversation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unable to tell you,” adding that it was “Not directly affiliated with @EPA.”

U.S. environmental employees were soon joined by similar “alternative” Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service.

Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.

An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS also emerged (a reference to one of Trump’s more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants) to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.

Because the Twitter feeds were set up and posted to anonymously as private accounts, they are beyond the control of the government.

(By Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

ACLU files Freedom of Information request for Trump documents

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken legal action seeking documents on conflicts of interest and violations of the Constitution and federal law posed by Donald Trump and his family’s business interests.

The organization also released a plan laying out how it intends to challenge other Trump policies and protect the Constitution.

The efforts are made possible by the organization’s new Constitution Defense Fund, which was established following the election.

The first legal action, filed yesterday, is a Freedom of Information Act request asking several government agencies to turn over all documents relating to President Trump’s actual or potential conflicts of interest to his business and family connections.

The request seeks legal opinions, memoranda, advisories, and communications from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Government Ethics, the General Services Administration, and the office of Personnel Management from Nov. 9, 2016, to Jan. 20, 2017. The request includes email and all other communication to and from the presidential transition team.

“We are bringing this first legal action using the Freedom of Information Act to underscore the fact that President Trump is not above the law. Trump took the oath, but he didn’t take the steps necessary to ensure that he and his family’s business interests comply with the Constitution and other federal statutes,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. “Freedom of information requests are our democracy’s X-ray, and they will be vitally important to expose and curb the abuses of a president who believes the rules don’t apply to him and his family. We also know that more legal action will be needed when the new administration attempts to enact some of their unconstitutional proposals. The ACLU’s charge, laid out in our Seven-Point Plan, is to stand ready to confront any unconstitutional elements of the administration’s agenda — today on day one and for the next four years.”

The ACLU’s plan details potential legal challenges to the Trump administration’s enacting of unconstitutional policies, including:

• Demanding government accountability and transparency
• Protecting the rights of immigrants
• Defending reproductive rights
• Securing the First Amendment
• Advancing LGBT rights
• Defend core civil rights and civil liberties from erosion
• Mobilizing Americans to defend our Constitution

Over the next four years, the ACLU will implement its plan by adding up to 100 full-time employees across the country, paid for by its Constitution Defense Fund, which has attracted nearly 400,000 donations since Election Day.

The FOIA request https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/trump_conflicts_foia_request.pdf

Extensive stock trading by Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services raises questions

Public Citizen says the Office of Congressional Ethics and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should look more closely at the stock trading activity of U.S. Reps. Tom Price of Georgia and Chris Collins of New York for conflicts of interest and possible insider trading.

Price is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Extensive stock trading activity in industries that Price and Collins oversee as congressmen, and unusually good timing and financial benefits of those stock trades, raise red flags about the potential use of insider information,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The public information available falls short of hard evidence of insider trading, but the patterns of trading activity certainly warrant further investigation to determine if it occurred.”

Since 2009, according to congressional financial disclosure reports, Price has conducted over 630 trades on the stock market, many of which involve the pharmaceutical and health care sectors that he oversees as chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee and as a member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

Price’s colleague Collins also is a prolific trader of health care investments on the stock market, according to news and disclosure reports.

Collins, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, is a board member and the largest shareholder of a major biotech company, Australia’s Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited — a company in which both Price and Collins made major stock purchases within days of each other, according to financial disclosure reports.

“Collins purchased 4 million shares in August in the company whose board he sits on , and Price followed up with his own major stock purchase in the company two days later,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The stock value doubled in the three months following their investments. That’s quite good luck. This is worthy of investigation to determine whether any wrongful conduct occurred.”

Since passage of the STOCK Act in 2012, members of Congress have been subject to the same laws against insider trading that apply to everyone else. Additionally, congressional ethics rules warn members to avoid substantial conflicts of interest that may cast aspersions on the integrity of their office. Rules also mandate that members may not use their office for personal gain.

Public Citizen’s letter asks that the OCE and SEC investigate the stock trading activity of Price and Collins for potential violations of insider trading laws and conflict of interest rules and regulations.

On the Web

Read Public Citizen’s letter.

Obama administration announces rule to deal with illegal fishing, seafood fraud

The Obama administration on Dec. 8 issued a final rule to implement the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States.

This rule will require imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the U.S. border, helping to stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the United States.

This is a statement by Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell:

Today’s announcement is a groundbreaking step towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain. We applaud President Obama for his ambitious plan to require traceability for imported seafood ‘at-risk’ of illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers.

But the problem doesn’t stop here. We must continue to build on this important work and expand seafood traceability to include all seafood sold in the U.S. and extend it throughout the entire supply chain.

Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.

American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed. While Oceana celebrates today’s announcement, there’s still more to do in the fight against illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

 

About Oceana…

Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled — the product listed on the label or menu was different from what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safer to eat.

In September, Oceana released a report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. In the report, Oceana reviewed more than 200 published studies from 55 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and found seafood fraud in 99.9 percent of the studies. The studies reviewed also found seafood mislabeling in every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.

The report also highlighted recent developments in the European Union to crack down on illegal fishing and improve transparency and accountability in the seafood supply chain. According to Oceana’s analysis, preliminary data out of the EU suggests that catch documentation, traceability and consumer labeling are feasible and effective at reducing seafood fraud.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.

US court blocks overtime expansion pay rule for 4 million

A federal court this week blocked the start of a rule that would have made an estimated 4 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay heading into the holiday season, dealing a major blow to the Obama administration’s effort to beef up labor laws it said weren’t keeping pace with the times.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted the nationwide preliminary injunction, saying the Department of Labor’s rule exceeds the authority the agency was delegated by Congress. Overtime changes set to take effect Dec. 1 are now unlikely be in play before vast power shifts to a Donald Trump administration, which has spoken out against Obama-backed government regulation and generally aligns with the business groups that stridently opposed the overtime rule.

“Businesses and state and local governments across the country can breathe a sigh of relief now that this rule has been halted,” said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who led the coalition of 21 states and governors fighting the rule and has been a frequent critic of what he characterized as Obama administration overreach. “Today’s preliminary injunction reinforces the importance of the rule of law and constitutional government.”

The regulation sought to shrink the so-called “white collar exemption” that allows employers to skip overtime pay for salaried administrative or professional workers who make more than about $23,660 per year. Critics say it’s wrong that some retail and restaurant chains pay low-level managers as little as $25,000 a year and no overtime — even if they work 60 hours a week.

Under the rule, those workers would have been eligible for overtime pay as long as they made less than about $47,500 a year, and the threshold would readjust every three years to reflect changes in average wages.

The Department of Labor said the changes would restore teeth to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which it called “the crown jewel of worker protections in the United States.” Inflation weakened the act: overtime protections applied to 62 percent of U.S. full-time salaried workers in 1975 but just 7 percent today.

The agency said it’s now considering all its legal options.

“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the labor department said in a statement. “The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.”

Opponents fought hard against the rule, saying it would increase compliance costs for employers who would have to track hours more meticulously and would force companies to cut employees’ base pay to compensate for overtime costs that kick in more frequently.

“This overtime rule is totally disconnected from reality,” said Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. “The one-size-fits-all doubling of the salary threshold demonstrated ignorance regarding the vast differences in the cost-of-living across America.”

The court agreed with plaintiffs that the rule could cause irreparable harm if it wasn’t stopped before it was scheduled to take effect next week.

The Department of Labor could appeal the ruling, which might end up at a Supreme Court that includes some Trump appointees.

But the injunction takes political pressure off the incoming administration at an opportune time, according to labor law professor Ruben Garcia of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law. With no new overtime changes kicking in Dec. 1, Trump can accept the status quo and won’t have to risk angering workers by walking back overtime benefits shortly after employees start receiving them.

His administration could choose to make its own rule changes through the lengthy administrative process. Or Congress could amend labor laws.

The impending rule wasn’t front and center in the presidential campaign, but Trump did tell the news site Circa in August that he would love to see a delay or carve-out for small businesses in the overtime regulation. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was more vocal against it, saying it would be an “absolute disaster” for the economy and was being rushed through by Obama to boost his political legacy.

 

Rule would boost solar and wind energy development

The Obama administration took action Thursday to boost the development of solar and wind energy on public lands.

A final rule announced by the Interior Department would create a new leasing program on public lands and encourage development in areas where it would have fewer effects on the environment.

The rule came a little more than two months before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, and a new Republican administration could reconsider it.

The Interior Department said the rule would help develop cleaner domestic energy.

“We are facilitating responsible renewable energy development in the right places, creating jobs and cutting carbon pollution for the benefit of all Americans,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

President Barack Obama has called on the Interior Department to approve renewable energy projects that generate 20,000 megawatts of power on public land by 2020. The department said the rule’s competitive leasing provisions will apply to 700,000 acres of public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

 

Will Priebus be Trump’s chief of staff?

Donald Trump’s transition to the White House has a very distinct Wisconsin feel. And his first Cabinet and administration may as well.

Wisconsin native and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is on Trump’s transition team and could be in line for a top position in his administration. Trump was meeting Thursday with House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, and other Wisconsin Republicans are being mentioned for possible high-level jobs.

“You have a definite bias in favor of Wisconsin,” former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson told The Associated Press.

Thompson knows what it’s like to get a phone call from an incoming president. He left midway through his fourth term in 2001 to serve as health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush.

Thompson said he expects Priebus to become Trump’s chief of staff and fill the administration with people from Wisconsin.

“When I became secretary I took just about the whole governor’s staff out with me,” Thompson said.

Gov. Scott Walker has insisted he’s not interested in a Trump Cabinet position, even though he was closely aligned with Trump after running against him in the GOP presidential primary. Walker said during the campaign that he intends to serve out the remaining two years on his second term and reiterated it Wednesday.

“I take him at his word. He put that out there pretty fast,” Thompson said of Walker. “But anytime the president asks you to serve, it’s hard to turn down. The president has thousands of people to choose from and he has selected you, he’s chosen you. It’s hard to turn down.”

Walker told WTMJ-AM on Wednesday that the best way he could help Trump would be to remain as governor and serve in his new role as head of the Republican Governors Association. Walker also put in a plug for Ryan remaining as speaker, saying he can work to implement Trump’s agenda.

Ryan has had a tense relationship with Trump. He publicly criticized some of Trump’s more outlandish comments and did not campaign with him. Trump blasted Ryan as disloyal, “weak” and “ineffective” during the campaign.

Thompson said the fact that the two were meeting just two days after the election shows they’ve already moved on.

Ryan has his own political future to consider. He sometimes appears to have a tenuous grip on the fractious House GOP conference and there’s grumbling among tea party conservatives that he doesn’t fight hard enough for conservative wins. There’s also talk that the hard-right Freedom Caucus might try to topple Ryan.

But Ryan has an ally close to Trump in Priebus. The Kenosha native, who ran the state Republican Party before leaving to head the Republican National Committee in 2011, was a forceful Trump defender during the campaign. His closeness to the future president was evident when Trump called him to the podium early Wednesday to say a few words during his victory celebration.

Priebus, Walker and Ryan aren’t the only Wisconsin Republicans who could play a significant role in Trump’s administration.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the cowboy hat-wearing, conservative talk radio fill-in host, is not quashing rumors that he’d be interested in working for Trump.

“Let me make this clear — I am the Sheriff of Milwaukee County,” Clarke said in a statement Wednesday. “I will continue to be the Sheriff of Milwaukee County until I am no longer the Sheriff of Milwaukee County, at which time I won’t be the Sheriff of Milwaukee County. Anything other than that is pure speculation.”

 

Judge rules against federal guidance to schools about protecting transgender students

A U.S. District Court judge on Aug. 22 issued a preliminary injunction against the federal government’s guidance to public school districts regarding their legal responsibility to allow transgender students to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The ruling came in the multi-state lawsuit, Texas v. United States.

Five civil rights organizations who had submitted a joint amicus brief in the lawsuit – Lambda Legal, American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders – issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling:

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination.

“This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students. So let us make it clear to those districts: your obligations under the law have not changed, and you are still not only allowed but required to treat transgender students fairly.

“The scope of this injunction has no effect on the ability of other courts or lawyers representing transgender people to continue to rely on the federal government’s interpretations of Title IX or on prior decisions that have reached similar conclusions about the scope of federal sex discrimination laws.

“The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people – transgender elementary and high school students – for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse.

Texas v. United States was brought by Texas and 10 other states — subsequently joined by two additional states — against the United States, the Departments of Justice, Education and Labor and numerous federal officials.

The plaintiffs include the states of Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky (through its governor), Louisiana, Mississippi (through its governor), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, the Arizona Department of Education, the Heber-Overgaard Unified School District in Arizona, Harrold Independent School District in Texas, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Several of these plaintiffs lie in the 4th, 6th, 9th and 11th Circuits, which had issued binding appellate decisions consistent with the guidance of the federal agencies.

In May, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released the guidance because schools and districts requested clarification on their obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in education programs based on sex.

Clarifying how schools can safeguard transgender students’ rights to privacy and safety, the guidance says transgender students have the right to be free from discrimination, including the ability to use gender-separated facilities (such as restrooms and locker rooms) that match their gender identity.

The guidance follows similar policies in states and school districts across the country, including many that have been treating transgender students with dignity and respect for more than a decade.

The lawsuit targets various federal letters, guides, memos and statements regarding Title IX of the Education Amendments that conclude that federal bans on sex discrimination encompass gender identity discrimination and that transgender individuals should be allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The lawsuit claims that that guidance is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution.

Another lawsuit was filed recently by the state of Nebraska, joined by Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan (through its attorney general), Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said in a statement, “As lawsuits on the scope of Title IX proceed, we believe that justice will prevail as courts continue to recognize that discrimination against transgender students is a form of sex discrimination.”

HRC pointed out that the judge who issued the preliminary injunction also also sought to block Family and Medical Leave Act rights for legally married same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in United States v. Windsor.

On the Web

The court’s order can be read here.

Congressional conservatives threaten criminal justice reform

A handful of Senate Republicans have dealt a severe blow to prospects for overhauling the criminal justice system in Congress this year, with one lawmaker calling the bipartisan legislation championed by President Barack Obama and some prominent conservatives “a massive social experiment in criminal leniency.” 

The opposition from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and others will make it difficult for proponents to push the bill as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., assesses GOP support. Backed by the White House and a coalition of conservatives and liberals, supporters had hoped it would be a rare legislative accomplishment in a fiercely partisan election year and a final piece of Obama’s legacy.

At an event for congressional staff, Cotton and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., joined a group of federal prosecutors and argued against the bill, which would allow judges to reduce prison time for some drug offenders. The two senators — along with Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and David Perdue, R-Ga. — also issued statements of opposition.

Cotton later stood on the Senate floor, warning his colleagues that they would be held accountable if criminals were released and committed more crimes.

“If supporters of this bill and President Obama are wrong, if this grand experiment in criminal leniency goes awry, how many lives will be ruined?” Cotton asked. “How many dead? How much of the anti-crime progress of the last generation will be wiped away for the next?”

The bipartisan legislation, passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, would give judges discretion to give lesser sentences than federal mandatory minimums, eliminating mandatory life sentences for three-time, nonviolent drug offenders. It also would create programs to help prisoners successfully re-enter society. The idea is to make the sentencing system fairer, reduce recidivism and contain rising prison costs.

Disparate voices — from Obama and the American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Koch Industries — have said the system is broken and have backed the Senate bill.

In 1980, the federal prison population was less than 25,000. Today, it is more than 200,000.

Supporters of the bill are considering some changes to win over opponents, even though they sharply dispute the charge that the legislation would let violent criminals out of prison. Under the Senate bill, each case would be reviewed by a judge before the prison sentence was reduced.

Possible changes include revising or eliminating parts of the bill that would allow judges to consider reduced mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders or criminals who had possessed a firearm.

“How those changes will look is still being determined, but we’re moving ahead to get a bill ready to be considered on the Senate floor,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement early this week with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, another supporter.

Cotton said he has been talking to staff as they look at changes, but still believes the legislation is based on a “false premise” that those who would be released are low-level, nonviolent offenders. Cotton and others have been more supportive of the prison reform piece of the bill that helps prisoners re-enter society.

The Arkansas senator is talking to Senate colleagues individually as advocates rally McConnell to move the bill this year. Cotton’s lobbying pits him against Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. Cornyn has been pressing his colleagues to support it, saying that opposition from Cotton and other conservatives like Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has similar concerns, is misplaced.

As conservative opposition has grown, Cornyn and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have said the legislation doesn’t have to move this year. Unlike McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said the legislation is a priority, but hasn’t committed to a timeline.

The House Judiciary Committee has approved several separate criminal justice bills, with the eventual goal of moving them separately or together on the House floor.