Paul, Holder United on Changing Drug Sentencing Laws

Image: Paul, Holder United on Changing Drug Sentencing Laws

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 07:45 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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It’s an odd couple: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a leader in the tea party movement, and Democratic Attorney General Eric Holder, the first black person to hold the office who advocates same-sex marriage and opposes voter ID laws.

Despite their differences, the pair have formed a united front on the issue of eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, according to The New York Times.

In 2010, Congress voted to change a 1986 law that disproportionately landed thousands of black offenders in prison for crack cocaine convictions while their mostly white counterparts nabbed with powder cocaine received more lenient terms. The disparity between the sentencing for the two drugs was reduced. The original law was enacted in the 1980s, when crack cocaine became a national epidemic.

As a result, according to The Times, black Americans are disproportionately represented in prisons. Both Holder and Paul want this remedied. Paul is supporting a bill, also supported by Holder and President Barack Obama, which is also sponsored by some of the most liberal Democrats in the chamber, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Durbin of Illinois.

Libertarian-leaning members of the GOP say hefty prison terms are "an ineffective and expensive way to address crime," The Times reported, and thus the bill also has the backing of other tea party leaders, such as Ted Cruz of Texas and Utah’s Mike Lee.

Paul predicts the bill will pass with support from at least half the Republicans in the Senate.

"This is the definition of how you get bipartisan agreement," Paul told the newspaper. "It’s not splitting the difference. It’s finding areas of common interest."

Paul also told The Times he felt "optimistic" that conservatives and liberals would support changing sentencing laws in the same way they have jointly opposed domestic spying by the National Security Agency.

Last month, Paul filed suit against the Obama administration and the NSA, challenging the constitutionality of an NSA program that collects bulk phone records. The formerly secret program was made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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