Sen.Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told a witness at today's judicial confirmation hearing that he wants to "do this crack cocaine thing."
Sessions (R-AL), the former U.S. attorney for southern Alabama and state attorney general, was referring to reduced sentences for crack cocaine related offenses, which are generally harsher than sentences for powder cocaine convictions--a fact that, activists point out, disparately affects poor, and often minority, offenders. But Sessions's particular wording caused a stir at the otherwise dry fourth day of hearings for Sonia Sotomayor.
The Alabama senator made the comment while greeting Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and a witness for committee Democrats, as he welcomed each witness who sat before the committee today after they finished their opening statements on Sotomayor.
Sessions welcomed Henderson, in turn. Then he said, in an upbeat tone, "We're gonna do this crack cocaine thing."
(Henderson testified on crack cocaine sentencing in April before the Judiciary Sucommittee on Crime and Drugs, of which Sessions is a member, Sessions in turn thanked Henderson for appearing.)
The committee and audience found this quite amusing. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked Sessions, multiple times, to "please restate."
Sessions corrected himself: "We're gonna reduce the burden of crack cocaine cases and make them fair."