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A Contentious Confirmation: Will Jeff Session Become Our Attorney General?
01/12/2017 Cabinet Positions Andrew S
keywords: Sessions Hearing Brooker Attorney General

President-Elect Donald Trump is no stranger to making controversial decisions, and his nominations for key cabinet positions continue this tradition. Perhaps most contentious is his decision to select for Attorney General Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a man many have accused of not valuing justice or equality:

The Controversy Considered

Most opponents of Jeff Sessions focus on his civil rights record. The Attorney General must promote equal rights and opportunities for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or other identities. Many fear that Sessions will neglect this responsibility, given that he:

  • Has a history of making racist comments, according to testimony from a 1986 hearing
  • Has criticized lawmakers and activists for gathering data on racial bias in police shootings
  • Voted against the Violence Against Women Act
  • Called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive legislation”
  • Claimed that Trump’s comments about grabbing women by their genitalia did not describe sexual assault
  • Has a 10/100 rating from the NAACP, indicating that does not prioritize opposing racial discrimination
  • Seeks to deport undocumented immigrants, including DACA enrollees 
  • Has appeared supportive of Trump’s plans to create a Muslim registry, though he claims he would oppose this as Attorney General

Sessions insists that he will treat all Americans equally, and his supporters argue that his positions on prior legislation say nothing about how he will enforce existing laws. Critics counter, however, that even if Sessions does not directly discriminate, he may fail to adequately uphold civil rights laws in his new position. If Sessions does not prioritize civil rights law, discrimination could go unchecked even if he does not directly mistreat women and minorities.

Booker’s Broadside

Leading the charge against Sessions is Cory Booker, the junior US Senator from New Jersey. As the first African-American to represent his state in the Senate, Booker has personal experience with discrimination, and thus makes civil rights issues a priority. On January 11th, he became the first sitting US Senator to testify against a fellow sitting Senator’s confirmation. Though Booker did not directly call Sessions a racist, he accused his colleague of failing to adequately recognize and oppose modern racism.

Booker has attracted the support of numerous progressives, including Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Senate Democrats as a whole, however, do not appear unified against confirmation, and would not have the votes to block it if they were. Sessions is likely to become Attorney General, but his actions are likely to be shrouded in controversy from the start.

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