Cotton: Pardons, Not Wholesale Change, Can Fix Unfair Sentences

Arkansas senator sees no need for an overhaul of criminal sentencing

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton says he disputes the premise of the bipartisan sentencing overhaul bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton says he disputes the premise of the bipartisan sentencing overhaul bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 8, 2016 at 10:21am

If President Barack Obama wants to address sentences for low-level offenders, he should do so through pardons rather than wholesale changes in criminal sentencing, Sen. Tom Cotton said Wednesday.  

The Arkansas Republican, one of the foremost critics of a bipartisan sentencing overhaul bill, told reporters that he doesn’t want to see mandatory minimum sentences slashed.  

But Cotton added that for a small number (which he pegged at roughly 1,000) of cases where long sentences are inappropriate, Obama should use the “precise scalpel of the president’s pardon and commutation power.”  

“I simply dispute the premise” of the bipartisan bill, Cotton said.  

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The first-term senator charged the Obama administration and other supporters of sentencing reform of effectively exploiting the case of Weldon Angelos, who had received a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 55 years in prison for what was a fairly small drug deal.  

Cotton made the remarks during a breakfast hosted by The Heritage Foundation.  

“President Obama has had the power for seven years,” he said, noting that Angelos did not have his sentence commuted by the White House.  

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Cotton said he did agree with provisions in the Senate’s sentencing bill spearheaded by Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas regarding overhaul of prisons themselves, citing the need to prepare prisoners for re-entry.  

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski
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