Jeff Sessions Becomes One of Few Presidential Nominees Ever Opposed by Common Cause in 46 Years

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  • David Vance

Today, Common Cause announced it opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III (R-AL) to serve as U.S. Attorney General, deeming him unfit to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Senator Sessions has for decades been an outspoken critic of the Voting Rights Act, one of this country’s most critical pieces of civil and voting rights legislation, which paved the way for an inclusive democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act is on the chopping block with the nomination of Senator Sessions and recent victories in the courts striking down laws designed to suppress minority voting would be threatened under a Sessions-led Justice Department,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “Common Cause had opposed presidential nominees only a handful of times in our 46-year history, but Senator Sessions is a longtime critic of too many of the laws he would be charged with enforcing as Attorney General.”

Common Cause previously opposed the nominations of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, John Tower as Secretary of Defense and Ed Meese as U.S. Attorney General. The nominations of Bork and Tower were rejected by the U.S. Senate. Meese was confirmed and served as Attorney General but resigned from office over his role in a defense contracting scandal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings on the Sessions nomination that will be held on January 10 and 11, more than a week before President-elect Trump is even sworn into office. This is the same committee that has for nearly a year refused to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has no business ramming through the nomination on an expedited schedule before President-elect Trump is even sworn into office,” said Flynn. “The fact that a previous Republican-controlled U.S. Senate rejected Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship because of a series of racially insensitive or racist language should give the Senate pause. It would be irresponsible of the Senate to rush to confirm a suspect nominee simply because he is a fellow member of what has been referred to as ‘the world’s most exclusive club.’ Sessions’ questionable record should be carefully reviewed before the Senate rubber stamps the same man it found unfit to be a federal judge years ago.”

In 1986, Sessions’ nomination to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama was rejected by a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. After listening to extensive testimony about controversial statements made and actions taken by Sessions, the Judiciary Committee could not even muster enough votes to pass the nomination on to the full Senate without recommendation.

For his recent nomination, Sen. Sessions did not even complete his questionnaire. Among other things, the Senator omitted inclusion of dozens of recent interviews, including some given to Breitbart and others as recent as October of 2016 in which he excuses president-elect Trump’s statements condoning sexual assault. Content aside, such omissions amount to a process violation. In 2010, when the Senator himself reviewed submissions from a judicial nominee, he noted that the incomplete response was “potentially disqualifying” and a criminal offense. “Sen. Sessions’ cannot contend for the nation’s chief lawyer without playing by the rules,” President Hobert Flynn noted.

Sen. Sessions additionally tries to create for himself a civil rights record that simply does not exist. As three former DOJ attorneys noted in a recent op-ed, Sen. Sessions completed no substantive work on at least three of the four cases he claimed, in his recent questionnaire, his most significant civil rights cases. Tellingly, Sen. Sessions failed to include these same cases in his questionnaire for his 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship. “It’s clear,” President Hobert Flynn stated, “that the Senator is trying to develop a record that doesn’t exist. He did it when prosecuting three activists for voter fraud despite the dearth of evidence, and he’s doing it now to try to fool his colleagues. America’s elected representatives must call it out for what it is: an unsuccessful attempt to gain an unearned office.”