WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after the House passed by voice vote the Fair Sentencing Act (S. 1789):
“I applaud the House for passing the Fair Sentencing Act by voice vote, making our federal drug sentencing policies fairer and more rational.
“Two decades ago, Congress responded to the addictiveness of crack cocaine and the violence it brought in its wake by establishing harsh mandatory sentences for possessing and dealing it. But in supporting that policy, Congress also created a wide disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences.
“Possessing an amount of crack equal to the weight of two pennies has resulted in a mandatory minimum sentence of five years; in order to receive a similar sentence for possessing chemically-similar powder cocaine, one would have to be carrying 100 times as much. It has long been clear that that 100:1 disparity has had a racial dimension, as well, helping to fill our prisons with African-Americans disproportionately put behind bars for longer.
“The 100:1 disparity is counterproductive and unjust: that’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of the bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Judicial Conference of the United States, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Union of Police Associations, and dozens of former federal judges and prosecutors. They have seen the damaging effects of our unequal sentencing guidelines up close, and they understand the need to change them. The Fair Sentencing Act does that. It also strengthens sentences for those who profit by addicting others to drugs.
“This bill has strong bipartisan support: whatever their opinions on drug policy, members of law enforcement, community advocates, and Members of Congress overwhelmingly support this bill. In fact, it passed the Senate unanimously. In the words of a letter signed by a bipartisan group of its sponsors on the Senate Judiciary Committee—Senators Leahy, Sessions, Feinstein, Hatch, Specter, Grassley, Durbin, Graham, Cardin, Cornyn, and Coburn—’Congress has debated the need to address the crack-powder disparity for too long….We now have the ability to address this issue on a bipartisan basis.’
“I am glad that the House has passed this important legislation, which now goes to President Obama’s desk.”