WASHINGTON, January 11, 2017 — Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ, became the first sitting senator to testify against a Senate colleague in a confirmation hearing for a cabinet position. Booker spoke out against Senator Jeff Sessions is awaiting confirmation as Donald Trump’s Attorney General.
Citing Sessions civil rights record, Booker pleaded with his fellow Senators to vote against Trump appointee. Booker said Sessions lacks courageous empathy:
“The next attorney general must bring hope and healing to this country, and this demands a more courageous empathy than Senator Sessions’ record demonstrates.”
Booker doubted Sessions’ commitment or ability to fight for civil rights:
“If one is to be attorney general, they must be willing to continue the hallowed tradition in our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice for civil rights.”
Several other Democratic leaders have said Sessions is unfit to serve, expressing concerns about Sessions’ voting record. Booker believes Sessions would not meet the obligations of the Justice Department to protect civil rights.
Along with testifying against Senator Sessions, Booker has called for more disclosure from Trump’s other Cabinet picks, claiming they have not been fully vetted by the Trump team. Booker has also aired his concern about Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s ties to Russia.
The Obama administration’s attorneys general have been helpless to repair the damaged relations between the nation’s law-enforcement agencies and the African-American community. The Department of Justice has failed to address civil rights issues that were a concern to black Americans.
Of the 109 cabinet-level nominations made by presidents since 1977, only six have failed: Former Senator John Tower was rejected by his former colleagues as secretary of defense, and five other cabinet nominees withdrew under pressure. Not since 1925 has a Senate controlled by the president’s party rejected one of his nominees.
Under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats triggered the “nuclear option,” eliminating the filibuster for cabinet-level nominees and federal judges, excepting only Supreme Court nominees. That means that for the first time ever, a new president’s nominees can’t be blocked by the minority party.
The Trump administration will face a daunting task to rebuild DOJ relations with minority communities. But in spite of Booker’s precedent-shattering testimony and the opposition of other Democrats, the responsibility for trying will almost certainly fall to Jeff Sessions. And for that, the Democrats, who apparently never imagined that they would lose the White House, can blame only themselves.