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Black Members Press for Answers on Drug Sentencing

Congressional Black Caucus members want to know whether Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan supports eliminating the disparity in crack-cocaine sentencing.

That was the top question in a letter that CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) sent Monday to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urging him to probe Kagan’s record on racial issues.

Although Lee and Norton, who handles judicial nominations for the group, praised Kagan’s “outstanding” academic and professional credentials, they outlined five race-related questions that they wanted Judiciary members to pose to her during her confirmation hearing, which began Monday.

In addition to probing whether she supports eliminating the crack-cocaine sentencing discrepancy — something the CBC has pushed for — Lee and Norton urged Leahy and his colleagues to question Kagan about why she opposed the creation of a commission on race when she was an adviser to President Bill Clinton. They also want Senators to ask Kagan about her record of hiring women and minority faculty members when she was dean of Harvard Law School and about her views on affirmative action.

In a 1997 memo to Clinton, Kagan supported reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

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