Judiciary Committee Waters Down Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Bill
President Obama promised to work to equalize crack and powder cocaine penalties. He said he would urge Congress to eliminate the five year mandatory minimum penalty for simple possession of 5 grams or more of crack and eliminate the 100:1 disparate ratio of penalties for crack vs. powder cocaine.
This morning, The Senate Judiciary Committee held a markup hearing on S.1789, The Fair Sentencing Act (Durbin, Leahy, Feingold, Cardin, Whitehouse, Kaufman, Specter, Franken.)
The result: A compromise. The 100:1 ratio and mandatory minimum sentences will not be eliminated, but reduced to 20:1. In other words, no equalization. Crack cocaine will continue to carry a penalty 20 times more severe than powder cocaine. Is it an improvement? Yes. Is it good enough? No.
The Dem's love affair with bi-partisanship continues: [More...]
[T]he deal was approved by the committee 19-0 and now goes to the floor of the Senate.
"If Jeff Sessions and Dick Durbin can come to an agreement, bipartisanship is not dead," said Durbin, a Democratic senator from Illinois.
Currently, possession of 5 grams of crack triggers a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence. It takes 500 grams of powder to trigger the 5 year mandatory minimum. So now, crack will still carry a penalty 20 times more severe than powder.
There's more bad stuff in the bill as introduced -- it reeks of Joe Biden-type influences -- increased sentencing guidelines for some drug crimes through application of aggravating factors.
The bill we needed was Bobby Scott's H.R. 3245 which passed the House Judiciary Committee in July. It would have eliminated the "100 to 1" disparity by removing the word "crack cocaine" in the criminal code.
Instead, we get another crime bill with increased penalties and no equalization.
Again, while the reduction is an improvement, the bill is a big disappointment.
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