Meet Laura E. Mate, Joe Biden’s latest nominee for a key position in the administration. Mate had a tough time yesterday answering a policy question from Sen. Josh Hawley about sentencing minimums, which might be a wee problem considering that Biden appointed her to the Sentencing Commission. Hawley had found an earlier signed letter from Mate and others in 2013 opposing minimum sentencing requirements altogether, including for those guilty of sex crimes.

Suddenly, however, Mate claimed she no longer had any position on minimum sentence requirements. That seemed strange to Hawley, considering the job she’s supposed to fill (via Duane Patterson):

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.

“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?”

This is yet another case of Biden and his team not reading the room. One would think that the efforts to recall progressive “decarceration” prosecutors like Chesa Boudin and George Gascón would have caused the White House to rethink Mate’s nomination. The vaulting of crime back to the top few issues driving voters is not a new phenomenon, after all, and even the national media has begun to point out how much Democrats have lost the public on this issue. The Washington Post makes that point again today, in fact:

Lee’s pledge of support for law enforcement is being replicated across the country as Democratic lawmakers up and down the ballot scramble to assure voters that they’re not soft on crime. It’s a sea change from two years ago when, amid the height of racial justice protests, some leaders on the left began to rethink their approach to criminal justice.

Fears that Democrats are losing ground on crime were compounded by Tuesday primary results, which included the recall of San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, whom voters saw as overly lenient toward criminals. In the Los Angeles mayor’s race, billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican who ran as a Democrat and campaigned on a message of improving quality of life, was projected to go to a runoff with onetime favorite Rep. Karen Bass (D). …

Homicide rates in cities across the country have soared over the past two years, with officials blaming a combination of pandemic-related changes to the criminal justice system and in some places new, more lenient policing policies.

In response, Democratic candidates across the country are showcasing a tougher approach on crime. In D.C., a liberal haven with primaries later this month, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser is running on her record of bolstering police in schools. “You have to have a mayor who’s willing to make tough calls and not just go along with trendy words of the day,” Bowser said in a recent debate where another Democratic candidate also sought a tough-on-crime mantle.

And yet, here’s Biden offering up a progressive activist for the Sentencing Commission with a track record focusing on decarceration even for sex offenders. And rather than endorse minimum sentencing, Mate tries to pull a Ginsburg Rule non-response, which Hawley immediately skewers. He reminded Mate that she was being appointed to a policy position, not the federal bench, and that the Senate had a right to know what policies she planned to pursue on the commission. Mate stonewalled, however, and never did answer the question.

All this proves is that Biden’s not serious about crime, and seriously disconnected from the American public on the issue. Will Mate win her confirmation vote? If Kamala Harris has to cast a tie-breaker to get her onto the Sentencing Commission, Republicans should, ahem, “pounce” all over it. One has to wonder whether Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, or the increasing number of vulnerable Senate Democrats in this cycle will want to go on record supporting Mate.

You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...