Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions could face a tough time getting confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump’s attorney general, as Democratic National Committee interim chairwoman Donna Brazile called on the senate Friday to reject his nomination.
“Mr. Trump’s choice of Sen. Sessions for Attorney General is deeply troubling,” Brazile said in a statement. “His demonstrated disdain for the rights of ordinary Americans, his history of discrimination and pattern of racist behavior make him unfit to serve as the next Attorney General. I call on members of the United States Senate to reject his nomination.”
When former President Ronald Reagan tapped then-U.S. Attorney Sessions to serve as a federal judge in 1986, the senate refused to confirm him. A black colleague accused Sessions of saying he liked the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they smoke weed and said Sessions called him “boy.” Another colleague said that the future senator called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race.”
Sessions denied calling the black prosecutor “boy” and the comment about the white attorney. He admitted to the KKK comment but said it was as a joke. The Weekly Standard has pointed out that the KKK comment came while he was prosecuting the Klan at the time. Sessions also successfully sought the death penalty for an Alabama KKK leader.
Other Democrats have said that Sessions will have to answer questions about civil rights during his hearing but they were not as firm in their comments as Brazile.
“Given some of his past statements and his staunch opposition to immigration reform, I am very concerned about what he would do with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice and want to hear what he has to say,” Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “While many of us have worked with Senator Sessions closely and know him to be a staunch advocate for his beliefs, the process will remain the same: a fair and complete review of the nominee.”
Sessions is on the senate judiciary committee and previously worked alongside the late-Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who shot down his nomination to the federal bench in 1986. After working with Sessions in the Senate, Specter said, “My vote against candidate Sessions for the federal court was a mistake.”
He added, “I have since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian.”
The Republicans will have at least 51 seats in the Senate next year, and due to rule changes pushed by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in 2013, all appointments — except for Supreme Court justices — must get approved by a simple majority instead of the previous 60 votes necessary.