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 KushnerTrump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Trump: 'We already started' talks to get A$AP Rocky home from Sweden Kim Kardashian West thanks Trump, Kushner for helping efforts to free A$AP Rocky from Swedish jail MORE.

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Biden's lead narrows in early voting states: poll New CBS poll shows Biden with 7-point lead in New Hampshire MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerTrump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' MORE (N.J.), as well as Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeJudiciary chair demands Hope Hicks clarify closed-door testimony Houston pastor will offer sanctuary to immigrants willing to be US citizens Court filings show Trump, Cohen contacts amid hush money payments MORE (D-Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisMedia cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain Graham: Every Republican president or nominee 'will be accused of being a racist' 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."

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"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 TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' 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 EllisonFormer Sanders aides launch consulting firm Minnesota AG will defend state's abortion restrictions despite personal views Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups MORE (D-Minn.), the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanDemocratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage The Hill's Campaign Report: Second debate lineups set up high-profile clash MORE (D-Ohio), who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Mnuchin reach 'near-final agreement' on budget, debt ceiling Wendy Davis launches bid for Congress in Texas Steyer calls on Pelosi to cancel 'six-week vacation' for Congress MORE (D-Calif.) for her position in 2016.

But Democratic senators and GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyScandal in Puerto Rico threatens chance at statehood Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Democrat: Treasury 'acknowledged the unprecedented process' in Trump tax return rejection 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 SessionsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage House gears up for Mueller testimony Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender 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 CottonLawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Five things to know about Iran's breaches of the nuclear deal Hillicon Valley: Trump gets pushback after reversing course on Huawei | China installing surveillance apps on visitors' phones | Internet provider Cloudflare suffers outage | Consumer groups look to stop Facebook cryptocurrency MORE (Ark.), David Perdue (Ga.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (Utah), were the most vocal critics of a previous bill rolled out by Durbin and Grassley.