Sessions Vote Postponed to Wednesday

Judiciary Committee Democrats Deliver a Stinging Indictment of AG Nominee

Posted by Dale Eisman on January 31, 2017


Today In Democracy

The Senate Judiciary Committee has delayed until Wednesday its vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general following a four-and-one-half hour meeting today that underscored the partisan disagreement over his fitness to serve.

The Republican majority, which unanimously supports Sessions, has refused pleas for a new round of hearings to examine the nominee’s role in drafting President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven countries from traveling to the U.S.; committee Democrats are protesting and it appears most if not all will vote no. The Democrats' long recitation of complaints about Sessions thwarted Republican plans to vote today.

While committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-IA, insisted that two days of hearings found Sessions well-qualified, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, delivered a lengthy indictment of “many disturbing actions and statements throughout his record.”

Feinstein recalled that Sessions was the first senator to endorse President Trump’s candidacy and called him “the fiercest, most dedicated, most loyal promoter of the Trump agenda.” She noted that he has been a relentless opponent of civil rights and voting rights and that he was one of just four committee members who in 2015 voted against a “sense of the Senate” resolution condemning candidate Trump’s call for a halt to the admission of Muslim refugees to the U.S.

“How can we possibly conclude that this nominee will be independent?” Feinstein asked.

Assuming Sessions clears the committee, a floor vote could come within days. The fierce opposition voiced by Feinstein, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and other Democrats in today's session suggested that Democrats will at least attempt to filibuster the nomination. Common Cause is among a large group of democracy reform, civil rights, voting rights and other groups that have urged senators to defeat the nomination.

 

The President is set to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court tonight. The field of candidates reportedly has been cut to three federal appeals court judges, William Pryor, Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman. All are staunch conservatives who would be expected to keep Trump’s promise to follow the example of the man they would replace, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

While a fierce fight on the nominee is all but guaranteed, reports today suggest Democrats are not fully committed to a filibuster that could block confirmation. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, has promised to oppose any Trump nominee “outside the mainstream” but has been noncommittal on a potential filibuster.

As the Washington Post reported this morning, “The advantages of trying a filibuster are clear — make Republicans work to find the 60 votes needed to end it, including at least eight Democrats, and as a result, delay or block the nomination. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority.

“But there are also downsides. Democrats running for re-election next year in states Trump won in 2016 could face political consequences for their party’s attempted obstruction. And if Republicans change the rules and eliminate the filibuster altogether, Democrats would have lost their most powerful weapon in future Supreme Court fights.”

 

The South Dakota Senate is set to vote Wednesday on a bill that would undo a series of ethics reforms approved by voters in November.

Republicans rammed the legislation through the South Dakota House and a Senate committee in less than a week, but a public outcry and national publicity last week persuaded them to put off the final vote until Wednesday.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has said he will sign the bill. IM22, which it would overturn, is a sweeping overhaul of ethics and campaign finance laws that was backed by nearly 52 percent of South Dakota voters. The initiative created an Ethics Committee to enforce campaign finance and lobbying laws and requires additional campaign finance disclosures and increased reporting; it also lowered limits on contributions to political action committees, political parties, and candidates for statewide, legislative, or county office and imposed limits on contributions from candidate campaign committees, political action committees, and political parties. It created a voluntary, publicly funded campaign finance program for statewide and legislative candidates who agree to limits on their campaign contributions and expenditures. 

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Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections, Ethics

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