Democrats urge colleagues to oppose prison reform bill

Several Democratic lawmakers are urging their Democratic colleagues to oppose a prison reform bill considered a key priority for White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Justice Dept sues Ivanka’s former business partner in fraud case Connect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done MORE.

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies The Hill's 12:30 Report Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Bernie Sanders socialism moves to Democratic mainstream Overnight Health Care: Arkansas Medicaid work rules could cost thousands coverage | Record number of overdose deaths in 2017 | Dems demand immediate reunification of separated children MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Bernie Sanders socialism moves to Democratic mainstream Democrats embracing socialism is dangerous for America MORE (N.J.), as well as Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeVAWA reauthorization: Even if the Democrats lose, they win? Dems introduce measure to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (D-Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisTrump, Obamas and Clintons among leaders mourning Aretha Franklin Obama to receive RFK Human Rights award Bill Russell: Being criticized by Trump is the 'biggest compliment you can get' MORE (D-Ga.), sent a letter on Thursday to Democrats in the House and Senate warning that the legislation "would in fact be a step backwards."

ADVERTISEMENT
"We are unwilling to support flawed prison reform legislation that does not include sentencing reform," the Democratic lawmakers added in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.

The letter comes as Congress is stalemated over passing criminal justice reform legislation.

House Republicans, as well as Kushner, who is also President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE's son-in-law, say that Congress should pass a bill limited to prison reform because it would be the only thing that Trump would sign.

An aide told The Hill last week that a narrow bill could be brought up for a vote next month. It would provide funding for programs aimed at reducing the likelihood of inmates committing new crimes once released from prison.

That bill picked up Democratic support this week, including from Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice Ellison#BelieveAllWomen, in the Ellison era, looks more like #BelieveTheConvenientWomen Ellison ex-girlfriend details abuse allegations Dem requests DOJ probe on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology MORE (D-Minn.), the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanPelosi sees defections from an unusual quarter — the left Poll: Republicans favor Scalise for Speaker; Dems favor Pelosi Report: 50 Dem House candidates oppose Pelosi for speaker MORE (D-Ohio), who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiBoogeywomen — GOP vilifies big-name female Dems Sen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances New Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders MORE (D-Calif.) for her position in 2016.

But Democratic senators and GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive things to know about Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official under fire from Trump Democrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (Iowa) want any bill to include sentencing reform. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Durbin have introduced legislation that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses while increasing mandatory minimums for other offenses, such as domestic violence.

The Democratic lawmakers added in their Thursday letter they are willing to support including prison reform in the legislation if it is necessary to get it through a GOP-controlled Congress.

"We have supported prison reform legislation ... as part of broader criminal justice reform legislation that includes critical reforms to federal sentencing laws," they wrote.

The Democrats outlined several objections to the prison reform bill, including inadequate funding. They added that it could also create discriminatory policies and would give Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller Watergate's John Dean: White House counsel is 'doing right' by cooperating with Mueller MORE "too much discretion."

"We cannot ignore the fact that the [legislation] ... would be implemented by Attorney General Sessions, a vocal opponent of prison reform, and that the legislation gives him significant discretion," they wrote.

Sessions has also been deeply opposed to broader criminal justice reform. He, along with GOP Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Cotton: Reducing mandatory minimum sentencing isn’t reform, it’s jailbreak MORE (Ark.), David Perdue (Ga.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Dem lawmaker calls Trump racist in response to 'dog' comment PETA calls out Trump for attacking Omarosa as a 'dog' MORE (Utah), were the most vocal critics of a previous bill rolled out by Durbin and Grassley.