Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was confirmed as the next U.S. attorney general on Wednesday, just one day after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was silenced as she offered criticism of Sessions’ questionable past regarding racism and race issues in general.
The New York Times reports that the Senate voted 52-47 to confirm, and no Republicans broke from their party to vote against the conservative Republican, who has served two decades in the Senate.
From the Times:
But the confirmation process—ferocious even by the standards of moldering decorum that have defined the body’s recent years—laid bare the Senate’s deep divisions at the outset of the Trump presidency. At the same time, the latest star turn for Ms. Warren rekindled the gender-infused politics that animated the presidential election and the women’s march protesting Mr. Trump the day after his inauguration last month.
Democrats spent the hours before the vote on Wednesday seething over the treatment of Ms. Warren, who had been barred from speaking on the floor the previous night. Late Tuesday, Republicans voted to formally silence Ms. Warren after the senator read from a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King that criticized Mr. Sessions for using “the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens” while serving as a United States attorney in Alabama.
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From the time Trump announced Sessions as his choice, there has been heavy pushback and criticism about the Alabama senator’s history pertaining to race. Black Democratic leaders such as civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) even broke tradition and testified against their peer.
Republicans have argued against the accusations leveled at Sessions, saying that he has been unfairly tarnished by accusations of racial insensitivity that have followed him since the 1980s.
“Everybody in this body knows Senator Sessions well, knows that he is a man of integrity, a man of principle,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said during the debate Wednesday afternoon. The “twisting” of Sessions’ record offended him, he said, even as Democrats continued their attacks on the nominee.
More from the Times:
As the 84th attorney general, Mr. Sessions brings a sharply conservative bent to the Justice Department and its 113,000 employees. A former prosecutor, he promises a focus aligned with Mr. Trump in pushing a “law and order” agenda that includes tougher enforcement of laws on immigration, drugs and gun trafficking.
Civil rights advocates worry, however, that he will reverse steps taken by the Obama administration in the last eight years to bring more accountability to police departments, state and local governments, and employers. Advocates point to his history of votes against various civil rights measures, as well as the accusations of racial insensitivity.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Wednesday that on civil rights, immigration, abortion, criminal-sentencing guidelines and a range of other issues, Sessions has been far outside the mainstream and has pushed “extreme policies” that often target minorities.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), on the other hand, is confident that Sessions will prove to be a “fair and evenhanded” attorney general who would make good on his pledges to enforce even those laws he voted against in the Senate.
“There should be no question,” Grassley said, “that he is more than qualified to be the nation’s top law-enforcement officer.”
Personally, I think we should all be very afraid. Any white man who reportedly feels comfortable calling a grown-ass black man “boy” and telling him he should watch how he “talk[s] to white folks” is questionable in a position such as this.
But that’s y’all’s president, and this is his chosen Cabinet.
Read more at the New York Times.