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 KushnerThe Khashoggi disappearance tests US-Saudi relationship The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | How Trump could work with a Dem House | Trump heads to Florida to view hurricane damage Virginia judge calls Manafort’s plea deal ‘highly unusual,’ but is it? MORE.

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin opposes Saudi arms sale over missing journalist Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Affordable housing set for spotlight of next presidential campaign MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Affordable housing set for spotlight of next presidential campaign Cruz takes dig at Beto O’Rourke, calls him ‘top 10‘ contender for Dems in 2020 MORE (N.J.), as well as Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeGOP senator says wife received video of beheading after Kavanaugh vote Former Dem aide makes first court appearance on charges of posting GOP senators' info online Ex-House intern charged with 'doxing' GOP senators during Kavanaugh hearing MORE (D-Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Trump, Pence fan out to protect the Rust Belt Atlanta mayor signs bill to change Confederate street names Under attack: Because we don’t vote Republican 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 TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration 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 EllisonMinnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post Minnesota Dems worry about Ellison allegations as state AG race tightens Republicans see silver linings in deep-blue states MORE (D-Minn.), the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanSenior Dem says Pelosi will be Speaker for as long as she wants House Dems punt action on rule change for Speaker nominee Hoyer questions feasibility of new threshold for Speaker nomination MORE (D-Ohio), who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion: Treasury GOP has not done a good job of selling economic achievements, says ex-Trump adviser MORE (D-Calif.) for her position in 2016.

But Democratic senators and GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request 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 SessionsFBI investigated whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media Ex-Senate Intel staffer pleads guilty to lying to feds over contacts with journalists House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein 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 CottonFlake: Congress should not continue Kavanaugh investigations GOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter Susan Collins becomes top 2020 target for Dems MORE (Ark.), David Perdue (Ga.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchHatch mocks Warren over DNA test with his own results showing '1/1032 T-Rex' Romney defends Trump’s policies as ‘effective,' disputes he led 'never Trump' movement GOP fractured over filling Supreme Court vacancies in 2020 MORE (Utah), were the most vocal critics of a previous bill rolled out by Durbin and Grassley.