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 Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Arrests at southern border drop to 64K in August MORE.

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump defends push to ban flavored e-cigarettes: Let's 'keep young children from Vaping!' Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (Ill.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris keeps up 'little dude' attack on Trump after debate The crosshairs of extremism  On The Money: Democratic candidates lay into Trump on trade | China exempts US soybeans, pork from tariff hikes | Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCastro attack shines spotlight on Biden's age CNN, NY Times to host next Democratic debate in October Poll: College students say Warren won third Democratic debate MORE (N.J.), as well as Reps. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeJackson Lee: 'Racism is a national security threat' Most oppose cash reparations for slavery: poll Poll: Most Americans oppose reparations MORE (D-Texas) and John LewisJohn LewisThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same CBC marks 400th anniversary of slaves' arrival in US GOP buys JonOssoff.com after Democrat launches Georgia Senate bid 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 TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty 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 EllisonJudge threatens to put prison officials in same uncooled cells as inmates Minnesota students file federal lawsuit against school district alleging 'deliberate indifference' to racist incidents Former Sanders aides launch consulting firm MORE (D-Minn.), the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House panel approves impeachment powers Tim Ryan debuts 'album' on Spotify to pitch 2020 platform 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the September Democratic debate MORE (D-Ohio), who challenged House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Nadler: Impeachment inquiry a 'made-up term' but it's essentially 'what we are doing' Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight MORE (D-Calif.) for her position in 2016.

But Democratic senators and GOP Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest Grassley'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Cruz warns GOP support for expanded background checks could help elect Warren president Lawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes 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 SessionsHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe McCabe's counsel presses US attorney on whether grand jury decided not to indict US attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal 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 CottonMeadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes GOP senator defends Trump idea to buy Greenland GOP senator says he suggested Greenland purchase to Trump, met with Danish ambassador 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.