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Today the United States Senate voted to elevate their colleague, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) to the position of United States Attorney General, marking the end of a confirmation process that has included questions of racism and prejudice.
Mr. Sessions survived an-along party-line vote of 52 to 47, another sign of extreme partisanship in the Senate this session. No Republican broke with their party for this vote, which is divergent with how Senators voted on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, in which two Republican senators voted against her.
The confirmation process was brutal, even by the low standards of today’s politics that have defined the Senate in recent years. The process also created a moment of stardom for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who was told to stop speaking at a debate about Mr. Sessions confirmation. She was reading a letter from a woman who said Mr. Sessions was a racist, Senate Republicans claim that the action violates a Senate rule not to demean another Senator on the floor.
Senate Democrats spent the time between the incident on the floor and the confirmation vote seething about the treatment of Ms. Warren when she was reading a letter about Mr. Sessions on the Senate floor during a debate session. She was reading a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King that claimed Mr. Sessions used “the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens) while he was serving as a United States Attorney in Alabama.
Since Mr. Sessions was nominated and the Senate began hearings about him, Republicans have denied any and all allegations that he is a racist or has discriminated against African-Americans.Everybody in this body knows Senator Sessions well, knows that he is a man of integrity, a man of principle,”
-Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)
Mr. Sullivan said that the “twisting” of Mr. Sessions record offended him, as Democrats continued to attack Mr. Sessions.
His confirmation marks the end of a very liberal Justice Department and the beginning of a sharply conservative era for the DOJ and its 113,000 employees. A former federal prosecutor and Attorney General for Alabama, Mr. Sessions aligns with Mr. Trump in that they are both “law and order” politicians and they surely intend to implement that agenda as they work together over the next four years or more.
Advocates for civil rights worry that he will reverse eight years of Obama administration policy that assures accountability in police departments, state and local government, and private companies. They point to his voting record and past remarks to substantiate such claims.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), said Wednesday that on civil rights, immigration, abortion, criminal sentencing and a myriad of other issues, Mr. Sessiosn was far beyond the mainstream and pushed “extreme policies” that target minorities.
That partisan and personal criticism was at its apex on Tuesday nightwhen Republicans invoked an arcane rule that prevents a Senator from demeaning the character of another Senator. Ms. Warren was reading a letter written in 1986 that was brought up when Mr. Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan, he was not confirmed by the Senate based on allegations of racism that were too substantial to ignore as hearsay.There should be no question that he is more than qualified to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer
-Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)
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