New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker gave an impassioned and unprecedented plea to the Senate on Wednesday to vote against Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general and his fellow senator, Jeff Sessions.
Booker delivered an emotional five minutes of testimony flanked by members of the Congressional Black Caucus that Sessions’ record on civil rights disqualifies him from serving atop the Justice Department under President-elect Trump.
“The arc of the moral universe does not just naturally curve toward justice, we must bend it,” Booker said. “America needs an attorney general who is resolute and determined to bend the arc. Sen. Sessions record does not speak to that desire, intention or will.”
Booker became the first sitting senator to testify against a fellow sitting senator at a confirmation hearing for a Cabinet position. His panel with other lawmakers and supporters of Sessions was added to the hearings at the request of the top Democrat on the committee, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Testimony from Booker, civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Cedric Richmond against Sessions was the emotional finale of two days of hearings that returned repeatedly to the issue of race relations and civil rights in the United States.
Both Sessions’ supporters and detractors were at times passionate in their position. Sessions and his backers defended his record as the victim of character assassination, saying that the events of his unsuccessful 1986 confirmation hearing to be a federal judge were being unfairly misconstrued 30 years later to malign a man with a record of fighting for civil rights.
The Democrats and civil rights activists who testified, however, said that the record from the ’80s not only stood today, but that Sessions has shown a pattern of disregard for the at-risk members of society throughout his time in the Senate.
Democrats failed to land any knockout blows on Session during the hearing, with the Republicans on the committee unanimously coming to his defense as a fair enforcer of the law. The came closest when Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken questioned Sessions on exaggerating his civil rights record in past statements and his Senate questionnaire.
But the committee also treated Sessions with respect and warmness as a fellow colleague, a fact noted by his former staffer on the Judiciary Committee, William Smith.
“Members of this committee know Sen. Sessions … is fair and honest,” Smith said. “After 20 years of knowing Sen. Sessions, I have not seen the slightest evidence of racism because it does not exist. I know a racist when I see one, and I have seen more than one. Sen. Sessions is not one.” Sessions will likely be confirmed by the GOP majority Senate. (CNN)
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