Today begins the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for Senator Jeff Sessions, President-elect Trump’s pick for Attorney General. While the hearings are expected to last until at least tomorrow, Sessions released a prepared version of his opening remarks.
In them, Sessions posited himself as Constitutionalist who “believe[s] in fairness, impartiality, and equal justice.” He indicated he understood both the gravitas of the role, and his responsibility to victimized groups.
“I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it,” he stated. “I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by the LGBT community. I understand the lifelong scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse.”
He also obliquely addressed issues involving police brutality, and his interest in “focusing the efforts of our nation’s anti-crime apparatus in ways that more effectively enhance public safety and minimize officer misconduct.”
“It is essential,” he added, “for police and the communities they serve to have mutual respect.”
But will Sessions follow through on these promises? His track record indicates otherwise. As Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship because of alleged racist remarks, including calling the NAACP “un-American.”
In 1996, he fought to block the Southeastern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual College Conference from meeting at the University of Alabama, using a state law that made it illegal for public universities to fund any group that promotes “actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.”
When the university demurred, he announced he was considering a court order to stop the event. (Days later, a federal judge struck down the law as unconstitutional.)
In 2000 and 2009 he voted against expanding hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation, and more recently, he declared the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality an “effort to secularize, by force and intimidation.”
Sessions is also a co-sponsor of The First Amendment Defense Act, which would enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination as a form of free speech.
If Senate Republicans don’t give Sessions a full-court press, at least one Democrat will: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey announced plans to testify against Sessions today, the first time in history a senator has testified against another sitting senator for a cabinet post.
“I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague,” Booker said, calling Session’s record “concerning in a number of ways.” “But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience.”