Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) tried to stay serious throughout the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. But a slip-up about sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine and crack offenses from the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday left the room in stitches.
“Sen. [Patrick] Leahy and I were talking during these hearings, we’re going to do that crack cocaine thing you and I have talked about before,” said Sessions to President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Wade Henderson during witness testimonies.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) then called on the Alabama senator to restate his statement. He said, laughing, “I misspoke. We’re going to reduce the burden of penalties in some of the crack cocaine cases and make them fair.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in May about revising the 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine penalties put in place by Congress in the 1980s. The decades old law gives the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the sale of five grams of crack cocaine as it does for the sale of 500 grams of powder cocaine.
The Justice Department has stood in support of efforts to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing.