Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination

Senate Democrats are pledging to fight Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsKrauthammer: Sessions 'is a dead man walking' Trump and Sessions no longer speaking to one another: report Top aides urging Trump to stop public criticism of Sessions: report MORE's nomination to be attorney general, arguing the pick feeds into larger concerns they have about the Trump administration.

Democrats are raising questions about whether the Alabama Republican would be able to provide equal protection to all Americans, three decades after Sessions was blocked from a federal judgeship because of racism accusations that surfaced during his confirmation hearing.

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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren: Entire country must speak up on GOP healthcare bill OPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 House votes to repeal consumer arbitration rule MORE (D-Mass.) on Friday called for President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhy Donald Trump flipped a Dem county in blue Connecticut Dem rep: Trump can't deliver on promise because of Russia probe Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal MORE to rescind Sessions’s nomination.

“If he refuses, then it will fall to the Senate to exercise fundamental moral leadership for our nation and all of its people,” she said.

“Thirty years ago, a different Republican Senate rejected Senator Sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship,” she added. “Today, a new Republican Senate must decide whether self-interest and political cowardice will prevent them from once again doing what is right."

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who will be one of three black senators in the next Congress, said he has concerns that Sessions “possesses ideologies that are in conflict with basic tenants of the Justice Department’s mission.”

Sessions has repeatedly denied the accusations that he called an African-American assistant U.S. attorney “boy” or that he called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American.”

He voted to confirm Eric HolderEric H. HolderManafort heads for Senate showdown after subpoena Holder: Voting commission's Kobach is a 'fact-challenged zealot' Holder defends Mueller: 'No basis to question the integrity of Mueller' MORE as the nation’s first black attorney general, though he opposed Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s nomination over immigration issues. Lynch is the first black woman to serve in the post.

Sessions voted in favor of extending the Civil Rights Act, and his defenders have noted that he filed multiple desegregation lawsuits as a U.S. attorney in Alabama.

In 1999, he led efforts to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon and Alabama native.

Democrats could face an uphill battle to stop Sessions’s nomination. Because of rules changes instituted when they ran the chamber, only 51 votes are needed to confirm a Cabinet nominee, not the previous threshold of 60 votes.

There could also be pressure on some Democrats to back Sessions and other Trump nominees. Dozens of Democratic senators will be up for reelection in 2018, including some representing states won by Trump in 2016.

Still, Democrats are signaling that they won’t give Sessions or Trump’s nominee to be the next CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), a free pass.

Sessions has one advantage over Pompeo: He’s a member of the Senate, and the chumminess of the exclusive club often helps members win confirmation battles.

Sessions is generally well liked by colleagues, even those who disagree with him on politics.

That said, incoming Senate Democrat Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCongress can send a powerful message by passing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act OPINION | Dems' ‘new’ agenda? A recycled copy of Trump’s playbook Trump: Why aren't 'beleaguered AG,' investigators looking at Hillary Clinton? MORE (D-N.Y.) said that while he and Sessions “work out in the gym ... the fact that he is a senator does not absolve him from answering tough questions in the confirmation process.”

He added he has concerns about what Sessions “would do with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.”

Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate Judiciary reportedly drops Manafort subpoena | Kushner meets with House Intel | House passes Russia sanctions deal | What to watch at 'hacker summer camp' Manafort agrees to speak with investigators after subpoena Manafort heads for Senate showdown after subpoena MORE (Calif.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsIf our innovators have no reward, how will America compete? Democrats go in for the kill on ObamaCare repeal Funeral for the filibuster: GOP will likely lay Senate tool to rest MORE (Del.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels Live coverage: Trump's FBI nominee questioned by senators AT&T, senators spar over customers' right to sue MORE (Vt.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: House passes Russia sanctions deal with oil, gas fix The Hill's 12:30 Report Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (R.I.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem bill would ban controversial pesticide Trump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (Conn.), all Judiciary members, pledged to give Sessions a fair but thorough vetting process.

But Feinstein, who will be the committee's top Democrat in 2017, appeared to fire a warning shot that Sessions will have to show he’s not too loyal to Trump.

“His or her primary loyalty must be to the constitution and the rule of law—and sometimes that means telling the president no,” she said of an Attorney General nominee.

Sessions was the first sitting senator to back Trump for president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions Trump predicts 'problems' for those voting against ObamaCare repeal Overnight Defense: House passes Russia sanctions deal | McCain returns to Senate | Watchdog opens criminal probe into M camo mistake MORE (R-Ky.) gave a boost to Trump’s first Cabinet pick, saying he “strongly” supports Sessions’s nomination.

A source separately told CNN that McConnell has pledged to push Sessions’s nomination through the Senate. A spokesman for the Kentucky Republican declined to comment on a private conversation.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyTrump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate Judiciary reportedly drops Manafort subpoena | Kushner meets with House Intel | House passes Russia sanctions deal | What to watch at 'hacker summer camp' Manafort agrees to speak with investigators after subpoena MORE (R-Iowa) said he was “confident” that Sessions would be favorably reported by his committee.

In addition to Grassley, every Republican member on the committee quickly coalesced around the nomination. Sens. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 Flake secretly wrote book on conservative politics: report Dem campaign arm slams Heller, Flake on healthcare votes MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMike LeeSenate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal GOP senators back Sessions after Trump attacks MORE (Utah) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Trump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal OPINION | McConnell attempt to butcher ObamaCare is political malpractice MORE (S.C.), who have policy differences with Sessions, indicated they will vote for him.

The support from Judiciary Committee Republicans, who represent a cross-section of the caucus, bodes well for Sessions. Pompeo similarly got a quick endorsement from Sens. Richard BurrRichard BurrKushner says he did not collude with Russia, had no improper contacts Dems slam Trump for 'stonewalling' oversight efforts Burr: Nunes 'created' unmasking allegations against Rice MORE (R-N.C.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioMexican politicians have a new piñata: Donald Trump Bush ethics lawyer: Congress must tell Trump not to fire Mueller The private alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program  MORE (R-Fla.), members of the Intelligence Committee.

Progressive groups and lawmakers will be pressuring Democrats to oppose Sessions.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Trump should either rescind his nomination or the Senate should block Sessions again.

Rep. G.K. ButterfieldG.K. ButterfieldDems push back against anti-Pelosi insurgents Dems divided on Trump attack strategy for 2018 Overnight Tech: Black lawmakers press Uber on diversity | Google faces record EU fine | Snap taps new lobbyist | New details on FCC cyberattack MORE, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the group would oppose Sessions’s nomination. And Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a respected party voice on immigration, offered a blistering statement.

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” he said in a statement.

Steven Law, the president and CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund that has ties to McConnell, said the group looked “forward to doing everything we can to support Senator Sessions' nomination.”

McConnell also appeared to publicly warn Democrats against slow walking Sessions.

“I look forward to the Senate’s fair and expeditious treatment of our colleague’s forthcoming nomination,” he said. “Just as it promptly processed President Obama’s first Attorney General nomination, which concluded with a timely up or down vote.”