By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on whether or not US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) should be confirmed as the next US Attorney General on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 10th and 11th, 2017. Various civil rights groups are actively opposing Sessions’ confirmation.
On Friday, the witnesses before the Committee were announced who will be called to testify.
US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) will be the first witnesses called by Republicans on behalf of Sessions.
“President-elect Trump has made an outstanding decision in selecting my friend and colleague Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as our next US Attorney General,” Shelby has previously said of the nominee. “Jeff is a man of integrity who has been a trusted and valued partner of mine in the Senate as well as an unwavering voice for Alabamians in Congress. With decades of experience in the legal field and an impressive tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeff will bring expertise to President-elect Trump’s cabinet and the Department of Justice.”
It is predicted that the entire Republican Senate caucus will support Senator Sessions’ confirmation. Collins is considered the most moderate Republican in the caucus, but is still leading Sessions’ confirmation team.
“He’s a decent individual with a strong commitment to the rule of law,” Collins told The Washington Post. “He’s a leader of integrity… I think the attacks against him are not well-founded and are unfair.”
Republicans have a 52 to 48 majority in the Senate. Under the old rules, it would have taken a 60 vote majority to end a filibuster of the confirmation, but Democrats previously changed those rules so consideration of a confirmation cannot be filibustered (a tactic conservatives like Sessions and Shelby have used against some of President Barack Obama’s nominees). When Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014, they did not change the rules back, anticipating that there would be a Republican president in 2017.
The witnesses called by Republicans include former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury, US Commission on Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow and DNA Saves co-founder Jayann Sepich, a victims’ rights activist.
Democrats have called ACLU Legal Director David Cole, NAACP President Cornell Brooks, US veteran Oscar Vasquez and Mirror Memoirs founder Amita Swadhin. Vasquez benefited from Pres. Obama’s controversial executive action immigration orders, which Sessions opposed on Constitutional and public policy grounds.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) objected to Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) plan to have just two days of hearings on Sessions confirmation, calling for a longer, more comprehensive hearing process. If the Judiciary Committee recommends that Sessions should be confirmed, the nomination will then move to the full Senate. In 1986, the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to deny Sessions’s confirmation as a federal judge.
The Committee is not expected to go deep into the thirty year old claims of racism that derailed Session’s federal judgeship, but will instead focus on his constitutional and policy views, which run counter to the positions of many Democrats.
In Alabama, former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb (D) has endorsed Sessions. “We were then as we are now, members of different parties, but always willing to assist each other as we attempted to constantly do the right thing for the people of our beloved State,” Cobb said. “He has always responded when I called; party boundaries were never a consideration or factor in his decision.”