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 KushnerHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden calls on NSA to examine White House cybersecurity following Bezos hack The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE.

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Black caucus in Nevada: 'Notion that Biden has all of black vote is not true' The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two MORE (N.J.), as well as Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeePatrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' The US should work to counter India's actions against the people of Kashmir Sheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade MORE (D-Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial John Lewis to miss Martin Luther King Jr. Day event 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 TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg 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 sues Juul over rise in youth vaping Jane Fonda calls for protecting water resources at weekly DC climate protest Progressives ramp up fight against Facebook MORE (D-Minn.), the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanOffice of Technology Assessment: It's time for a second coming Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far GM among partners planning .3B battery plant in Ohio MORE (D-Ohio), who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (D-Calif.) for her position in 2016.

But Democratic senators and GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle Trump to sign USMCA next Wednesday 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 SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report 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 CottonSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Schiff closes Dems' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  MORE (Ark.), David Perdue (Ga.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Trump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals MORE (Utah), were the most vocal critics of a previous bill rolled out by Durbin and Grassley.