By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 8, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump praised US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) for being the first member of the Senate to endorse his campaign.
Many media sources believe that Sen. Sessions will be appointed to a high-level cabinet position in the Trump Administration. On Wednesday, CNN reported that Sessions is being considered for Secretary of Defense. Talk radio host Mark Levine suggested that Sessions could serve as President Trump’s Attorney General. Sessions is also reportedly on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.
If Sessions is appointed to President Trump’s cabinet, that would mean that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley would appoint his successor. State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) told The Alabama Political Reporter that Governor Bentley would not only make that appointment if a vacancy opens, but that the Governor also gets to set the special election to fill that Senate seat two years later.
Sen. Ward said that the Governor’s appointment had previously served for the rest of the outgoing Senator’s term, but that the state legislature shortened that to just two years. Ward said that at one time, the legislature itself made the appointment, but that was changed to be more consistent with other states.
Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) stated he was unsure who Bentley might appoint, but suggested one possibility is Republican Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice James Allen Main. Main is a former State of Alabama Chief Financial Officer and previously served as legal counsel to Governors Bob Riley and Fob James.
Sen. McClendon said that whatever Bentley does it, “Will be unpredictable.”
One name that has been widely speculated as having both the qualifications and the interest in the position is Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R). Sen. Ward suggested that Strange would not get the appointment, however, because of the Attorney General’s investigation into possible misconduct by Gov. Bentley and his administration.
Whoever is appointed would arrive in Washington at a critical time. The US Senate never voted on President Barack Obama’s appointment to the US Supreme Court Merrick Garland. It now appears that Garland’s confirmation is unlikely and that President-elect Trump will pick who fills the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat. Conservatives, including Alabama Senators Sessions and Richard Shelby, have slowed President Barack Obama’s (D) appointees as they move through the confirmation process, so there is likely going to be a backlog of appointments waiting for President Donald J. Trump.
Senator Jeff Sessions currently sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and would have enormous power in any judicial confirmations. With a weak Republican majority of just one or two votes in the Senate (after GOP Senators in Illinois and New Hampshire were defeated Tuesday), whoever fills a potential Sessions vacancy would wield enormous power on what legislation gets passed and which appointees confirmed.