Earlier this morning, Sen. Dick Durbin announced that he and Sen. Jeff Sessions had reached a "compromise" in the Senate gym over Durbin's bill, which would have eliminated the 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for crack vs. powder cocaine.
"If you ever wonder if anything good ever happens there, it appears something good might have happened there," Durbin said, which may or may not have been an oblique reference to former Congressman Eric Massa's tale about being lobbied by Rahm Emanuel in the House gym. "Senator [Orrin] Hatch was there to witness it."
The compromise was that Durbin would accept Sessions' amendment to change the disparity from 100 to 1 to 20 to 1. In return, Sessions offered to withdraw his amendments that would have narrowed the circumstances under which a judge could reduce penalties for offenders who acted with "fear, impulse or affection," and would have imposed a 10-year mandatory maximum for simple possession rather than eliminating the five-year mandatory minimum for simple possession entirely.
"My position is for one to one, equity and equality in sentencing, but in order to get things done you have to be prepared to make mutual concessions," Durbin said. "That's what we have done."
In a statement, the ACLU Legislative Counsel Jennifer Bellamy urged Congress to eliminate the disparity entirely, saying, "We finally have the political will and momentum to end this unconstitutional disparity. We should not miss this opportunity to effect real change and ensure fair sentencing for all Americans."
The Judiciary Committee passed the bill, which will go to the full Senate for a floor vote. Instead of eliminating the crack/powder disparity, which practically everyone in the committee acknowledged disproportionately affects black Americans, the senators opted to make the law one-fifth as racist as it used to be.
The senators on the committee spent the rest of the markup complimenting each other on all they had achieved with their bipartisanship.
-- A. Serwer
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