Newspaper article Roll Call

Leahy, Paul Honored Together as 'Constitutional Champions'

Newspaper article Roll Call

Leahy, Paul Honored Together as 'Constitutional Champions'

Article excerpt

Looking only at voting records, you wouldn't expect Rand Paul and Patrick J. Leahy to share an award of any kind.

But the Kentucky Republican who's running for president and the Vermont Democrat who is now the longest-serving senator gave remarkably similar policy speeches Wednesday evening. The remarks by the two senators to The Constitution Project's annual awards gala highlighted the fact that on civil liberties issues, party labels aren't representative of much.

Bipartisan efforts to overhaul criminal justice highlighted both speeches, with Paul calling for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing as part of his push against what he views as an effectively discriminatory legal system.

"The answer isn't just racial sensitivity training. The answer isn't just more African-American police officers, although it's probably part of the answer. That's not the ultimate answer," Paul said. "I think the ultimate answer is in understanding the war on drugs has gone too far. We've treated the war on drugs and we've treated addiction and we've treated problems that our kids have as an incarceration issue and not an addiction or a health issue."

"That has not made us safer," Leahy said of laws providing for mandatory minimums. "A third of our Justice Department's budget is in the Bureau of Prisons, not in going after criminals, not in stopping terrorists. These laws do not help us. I oppose all mandatory minimums."

Leahy highlighted the Justice Safety Valve Act he's drafted with Paul to give discretion in sentencing to federal judges to go below established sentencing requirements under certain conditions.

Interestingly, Leahy spoke first after an introduction from former aide Debo P. Adegbile -- whose Senate nomination to head up the Justice Department's Civil Rights division was thwarted over past connections to representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal. …

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