Jeff Sessions Confirmed As Attorney General Over Democrats' Objections

Photo: REX/Shutterstock.
Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General by a 52-47 vote that broke along party lines save West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who sided with the majority. The confirmation came after a contentious battle on the Senate floor, with Democrats speaking out against Sessions due to a history of pushing racist policies. The vote continues an unprecedented series of narrow victories for cabinet picks, which are usually bilaterally approved.

Democrats contended Sessions is too close to Trump, too harsh on immigrants, and weak on civil rights. They asserted he wouldn't do enough to protect voting rights of minorities, protections for LGBTQ people, the right of women to procure abortions, and of undocumented immigrants to receive due process.

Republicans say Sessions has demonstrated over a long career in public service — and two decades in the Senate — that he possesses integrity, honesty, and is committed to justice and the rule of law.

"He's honest. He's fair. He's been a friend to many of us, on both sides of the aisle," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday. "It's been tough to watch all this good man has been put through in recent weeks. This is a well-qualified colleague with a deep reverence for the law. He believes strongly in the equal application of it to everyone."

The Alabama Republican was expected to prevail on a near party-line evening vote over nearly unanimous Democratic opposition. Sessions enjoyed unanimous backing from fellow Republicans and cleared a procedural vote Tuesday afternoon by a 52-47 margin.

This week has featured overnight Senate sessions as GOP leaders are grinding through a thicket of controversial picks.

Epitomizing the sharp-edged partisanship surrounding confirmation of Trump's Cabinet nominees, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was given a rare rebuke Tuesday evening for quoting Coretta Scott King, widow of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., on the Senate floor. King wrote that as an acting federal prosecutor in Alabama, Sessions used his power to "chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens."

McConnell held that Warren had run afoul of rules about impugning a fellow senator.

Sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship was rejected three decades ago by the Senate Judiciary Committee after it was alleged that as a federal prosecutor he had called a black attorney "boy" and had said organizations like the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union were un-American. At his hearing last month, he said he had never harbored racial animus, saying he had been falsely caricatured.

Sessions would be the fifth Cabinet nominee approved by the Senate, joining Trump's choices for Defense, Homeland Security, Education, and State.

Sessions was a prominent early backer of Trump, a supporter of his hard line on illegal immigration and joined Trump's advocacy of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also has pledged to crack down on illegal immigration, gun violence, and the "scourge of radical Islamic terrorism."

Though he said he would prosecute immigrants who repeatedly enter the country illegally and criticized as constitutionally "questionable" an executive action by Obama that shielded certain immigrants from deportation, he said he did "not support the idea that Muslims, as a religious group, should be denied admission to the United States."
Advertisement