Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination

Senate Democrats are pledging to fight Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSenators locked in turf battle over Russia probes Trump and Russia: A timeline on communications Hispanic Dems demand meeting with Sessions 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate panel approves Scott Brown as NZ ambassador Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mass.) on Friday called for President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBolton: Trump won’t solve Israel, Palestinian conflict Report: Trump to reverse Obama’s Cuba policy German foreign minister: Trump has weakened the West 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. HolderReport: Holder to issue Uber sexual harassment report Wednesday Voting advocates notch win at Supreme Court Flynn refusal sets up potential subpoena showdown 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 SchumerHow Trump can score a big league bipartisan win on infrastructure Overnight Finance: Dems introduce minimum wage bill | Sanders clashes with Trump budget chief | Border tax proposal at death's door GOP senators distance themselves from House ObamaCare repeal bill 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 FeinsteinSenators locked in turf battle over Russia probes The case for protecting America's intelligence agency whistleblowers Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee MORE (Calif.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsDOJ pitches agreements to solve international data warrant woes Overnight Defense: Trump hits back over special counsel | US bombs pro-Assad forces | GOP chairman unveils proposed Pentagon buying reforms Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise MORE (Del.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyTrump’s travel ban would not have prevented an attack like Manchester Lawmakers reintroduce measure to lift Cuba travel restrictions Majority of Senate supports Cuban tourism bill MORE (Vt.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenators locked in turf battle over Russia probes DOJ pitches agreements to solve international data warrant woes Senators push for enhanced powers to battle botnets MORE (R.I.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenators push for enhanced powers to battle botnets Five things to know about Joe Lieberman Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise 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 McConnellFive goals for Republicans this summer GOP leader tempers ObamaCare expectations Week ahead: Senate faces difficult path to consensus on healthcare 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 GrassleySenators locked in turf battle over Russia probes Grassley calls for investigation into Chinese promotion of Kushner family company deal Dems plot recess offensive on ObamaCare 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 FlakeDems plot recess offensive on ObamaCare Lawmakers reintroduce measure to lift Cuba travel restrictions Majority of Senate supports Cuban tourism bill MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMike LeeGOP leader tempers ObamaCare expectations Republicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions Senate gears up for fight on Trump's 0B Saudi Arabia arms sale MORE (Utah) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenators locked in turf battle over Russia probes Graham: Calling climate change a 'hoax' bad for GOP Graham: Comey should be held accountable for acting on bad intel 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 BurrSenators locked in turf battle over Russia probes Senate Intel Committee demands Trump campaign to turn over all docs: report Mr. President: Cooperation with Russian investigation is your best play MORE (R-N.C.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioReport: Trump to reverse Obama’s Cuba policy Report: VA drug thefts not going away Senate panel could pass new Russia sanctions this summer 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. ButterfieldVoting advocates notch win at Supreme Court Supreme Court strikes down NC districts as illegally based on race Dems once critical of Comey line up to denounce his firing 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.”