Senate Democrats refuse to allow Republican Senator Jeff Sessions’ status as part of the chamber give him the ability to sail through his confirmation hearing for Attorney General despite giving that courtesy to fellow former Senate Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry just a few years ago.
“He’s going to need a very thorough vetting. Many of those statements are old but they’re still troubling. And the idea that Jeff Sessions—just because he’s a senator he should just get through without a series of very tough questions, particularly given those early things—no way,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told “Fox News Sunday’s” Chris Wallace, referencing controversial statements Sessions made decades ago that torpedoed his confirmation for a federal judgeship in 1986.
Schumer added, “There’s lot’s of questions that need to be asked. Let me give you one that relates to the old statements. What does he intend to do with the civil rights division? I wouldn’t want to support him unless I was convinced that we would have a strong civil rights division in the Justice Department.”
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Liz Warren called for President-elect Donald Trump to rescind his appointment of Sessions.
“Instead of embracing the bigotry that fueled his campaign rallies, I urge President-elect Trump to reverse his apparent decision to nominate Senator Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States,” Warren said in a statement. “If he refuses, then it will fall to the Senate to exercise fundamental moral leadership for our nation and all of its people.”
However, Democrats, when they still held the majority in both chambers, held back on scrutinizing Hillary Clinton during her confirmation hearing in 2009 as she left the Senate on her way to become President Obama’s Secretary of State, for the very thing the FBI ended up investigating later on.
Republicans, according to The Guardian, even pulled their own punches with their questioning regarding concerns about the conflicts of interest surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton’s fundraising for it. Only then-Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar pushed the issue.
“The core of the problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” Lugar said at the time.
The Guardian, which described Hillary as “sailing through” the hearing, noted the warm atmosphere and stated, “Despite the exchanges on the former president’s foundation, yesterday’s hearing ended up being a relatively chummy affair with the committee chairman, John Kerry, trading quips with Clinton about how they were both familiar with the experience of running – and losing – a presidential campaign.”
Clinton was confirmed 94-2. Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter voted against her, as he wanted more restrictions on the donations to the Clinton Foundation. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint also voted against Clinton citing her views on abortion.
Four years later then-Sen. John Kerry would replace Clinton at State and his experience was no different. The Washington Post also described him “sailing through” his confirmation hearing.
“Kerry outlined no grand agenda for the next four years. The closest he got to a foreign policy mission statement was the observation that ‘more than ever, foreign policy is economic policy.’ That means the United States must do better in the global competition for resources and markets, where it is being outmaneuvered by more nimble or aggressive nations, he said,” the Post reported of the hearing.
Ultimately, Kerry’s confirmation hearing went over topics including the Middle East, China’s desire for African energy and resources, North Korean gulags, and the Boston Red Sox.
The Senate confirmed Kerry 94-3 with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, and Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe voting against him.
Sessions voted to confirm both Kerry and Clinton following their respective hearings.