Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for U.S. attorney general was approved by a Senate panel Wednesday morning and will now proceed to the full chamber for a final vote.
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted along party lines to recommend Sessions’ confirmation. Republicans hold an 11-9 majority on the panel. All 11 Republicans announced their intent to support Sessions in advance of Wednesday’s meeting.
“There’s no mystery how this vote will go today,” GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the committee, said on Tuesday, when the committee was scheduled to vote on the nomination. However, committee Democrats staged something of a filibuster, and managed to delay the vote until Wednesday.
High political drama reigned over the committee’s proceedings. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was dismissed by the president late Monday, after she ordered government lawyers not defend his executive order on refugees. Her brazen act of defiance is certain to entice Senate Democrats to continue their delay of the Sessions confirmation, given their enthusiasm for deploying procedural roadblocks to stymie the Trump administration’s agenda.
Committee Democrats lionized Yates, using her subversion as a basis for attacking Sessions. They contend Sessions has not demonstrated he will be an impartial and independent actor, as is typical of the attorney general.
“That statement took guts,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said in reference to Yates. “That statement said what an independent attorney general should do.”
“I have no confidence that Sen. Sessions will do that,” she added.
“I’ve said and I believe the president’s decision to fire acting attorney general Sally Yates is shameful,” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said. “His accusation that she betrayed the Department of Justice is dangerous. The attorney general is the people’s attorney, not the president’s attorney.”
In the interim, Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, will serve as acting AG.
Sessions could be confirmed by the full Senate by the end of the week.
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