The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday that he wants to move quickly on the hearing to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as U.S. attorney general.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that he plans to schedule the hearing before the inauguration, and noted that the hearings for Eric Holder and John Ashcroft also happened prior to the inauguration, the Washington Times reports. Grassley and Sessions met Tuesday and discussed issues including congressional oversight and criminal-justice reform.
“Historically, at least in the case of [John] Ashcroft and in the case of [Eric] Holder, we’ve had the hearings prior to the inauguration,” Grassley told reporters. “And it would be my intention to move ahead in that procedure that we did with Ashcroft and Holder.”
Holder’s confirmation hearing started Jan. 16, 2009, four days before President Barack Obama’s inauguration. He was confirmed in early February.
According to the Hill, every Republican member on the Judiciary Committee has come out in support of the Sessions nomination.
Senate Democrats have expressed concerns about Sessions’ nomination. In a letter sent to Grassley on Monday (pdf), eight of the nine Democrats on the Judiciary Committee asked Grassley to “ensure that the hearings on this important nomination be fair and thorough.”
“We all have personal and cordial relationships with Sen. Sessions and know him to be a strong advocate for his political positions. But as you know, his job as attorney general, if he is confirmed, will be different: He will have to be an independent attorney general who is willing to set aside personal beliefs and political positions in service of larger obligations,” the letter read.
As previously reported on The Root, Sessions was previously denied an appointment as a federal judge when accusations of overt racism came to light during his confirmation hearings. Those issues are still a concern for Senate Democrats.
“Sen. Sessions has developed an extensive record on important issues within this committee’s jurisdiction, and over which he would yield significant power as attorney general,” the senators wrote. “The committee must devote adequate time to examining those issues. Therefore, the committee should hear from outside witnesses for, at a minimum, each of the following areas: immigration; violence against women; civil rights, including LGBT protections, racial justice and hate crimes; workers’ rights; national security and civil liberties; voting rights; criminal justice; and government conflicts of interest, transparency, and oversight.”
Grassley pushed back at Democrats’ concerns and said that they should resist the urge to turn the confirmation hearings into an attack on Sessions’ character.
"Everybody on the Judiciary Committee knows Sen. Sessions very well," Grassley said. "They know that he's a very honorable man. They know that he's a man of integrity.”
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday that it’s a “virtual certainty” Sessions will be confirmed.