Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley pressed President Joe Biden’s judicial nominee for commissioner and vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission on whether rape should have mandatory minimums.
Hawley cited nominee Laura Mate calling for the commission to change its guidelines to allow judges to “depart” from mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. He asked if there is any crime, namely rape, in which a mandatory minimum should be implemented.
“My understanding is this body decides whether there are mandatory minimums and as a commissioner, my job would be—” she said.
“You make recommendations, I’m asking you if you think there’s any crime — rape — in which there ought to be a mandatory minimum. Because you said earlier there shouldn’t be, I’m astounded by that,” Hawley said.
Mate said she would make an “informed” recommendation on mandatory minimums after consulting with her colleagues. The senator called her alleged position “radical” and suggested that her nomination is a reflection on the Biden administration’s stance on crime. (RELATED: ‘Utter Nonsense’: Sen. Hawley Grills Energy Secretary After Pinning Putin For Gas Prices)
“How can I make an informed judgement on voting for you if you won’t tell me what your positions are?” the senator asked. “I don’t know if you’ve changed them or not. It sounds like you have changed them. You signed a letter, you took, very frankly, radical policy positions and now you won’t answer me, what am I to draw from that?”
“Senator, I hope that what you draw is that I’m open to listening to this diverse—” Mate began.
“No, I think what I draw from it is that you don’t want to answer my questions,” Hawley interjected. “Because the positions that you took were radical, and frankly I think wrong. And in light of the dangers that children and people all over this country are facing, I think [is] deeply, deeply wrongheaded. I can’t possibly support your nomination. I can’t support the nomination of someone that wants to do away with mandatory minimums. I think it’s a radical position and I think, frankly, your nomination is indicative of where this administration is on its soft-on-crime policies.”
In March, Hawley raised concerns with then-Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson about sentencing child pornography offenders inconsistent with mandatory minimum guidelines. In the case United States v. Hawkins, Jackson sentenced a convicted child porn offender 3 months imprisonment despite guidelines recommending up to 10 years.
Jackson, who defended her record, said during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the sentencing decision must be based on the various circumstances and factors of the case. She also said the government has called for significantly lower sentences than the guideline recommendations.