Judiciary Committee Sends Sessions Nomination to Senate Floor

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved (11-9) the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R. Ala., to be U.S. Attorney General – a nomination that has been opposed by more than 430 national, state, and local civil and human rights organizations.

The vote, initially scheduled to take place on Monday, was postponed after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D. N.Y., invoked the two-hour rule – which limits committee meetings past the first two hours of the Senate’s day.

“Senator Sessions should not be our nation’s Attorney General. He has proven that he cannot be trusted to be an independent Attorney General protecting the rights of all Americans,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The Sessions brand is all over the worst actions from President Trump, including the executive order on refugees and immigrants.”

Ahead of the hearing, more than 200 groups sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressing their concerns about Sessions’ connection to President Trump’s recent anti-immigrant, anti-refugee executive actions.

“These actions and proposals are relevant to this Committee not only because they severely threaten civil liberties and civil rights, but also because several media reports have described Senator Sessions – even while waiting for the committee to vote on his nomination – as an influential advisor to the Trump administration on some of these issues,” the letter states. “None of these actions had taken place at the time of his first confirmation hearing. The Committee must establish a process for assessing these new developments, Senator Sessions’ role in formulating them, and his level of expected involvement in carrying any of them out. Failure to do so would be a gross dereliction of your duty.”

Henderson echoed that in his statement condemning the party line vote, saying “the committee should have recalled Senator Sessions to explain how he would enforce the executive actions of this past week.”

The Leadership Conference also released a new video on Sessions this week highlighting his attempt to jail Alabama civil rights workers who were registering Black voters in 1985.

The video features one of Sessions’ victims, Evelyn Turner, discussing how she was targeted for wrongful prosecution for helping elderly Black voters. In the video, she declares that “Jeff Sessions has not changed one bit.” The video includes Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders and Congressman John Lewis each testifying about Sessions’ career as an opponent of civil rights and exhorts viewers to call their senator to oppose his nomination for Attorney General.

In a statement releasing the video, Henderson said, “This video focuses on voting rights. We wanted to feature his whole record against immigrants, Muslims, women, refugees, people of color, and the LGBT community, but we only had one minute.”

The full Senate is expected to vote on his nomination in the coming weeks.