In an unprecedented move, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) became the first U.S. Senator ever to testify against a colleague during a confirmation hearing. In the above account from the Washington Post, Senator Booker charged that:
“If confirmed, Sen. Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won’t,” Booker said. “He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian and transgender Americans, but his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity, but the record indicates that he won’t.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee also heard testimony from a number of Sessions’s supporters, including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who said, according to the Post:
“Sessions is “thoroughly dedicated to the rule of law and the mission of the [Justice] department.”
The Post also reported that the Committee heard testimony from Oscar Vasquez, a former undocumented individual, who expressed the fear of many so-called “Dreamers” that as Attorney General Sessions will support the revocation of their protected status and use the information that they voluntarily furnished to the USCIS to institute removal proceedings.
During yesterday’s hearing, Senator Sessions took a somewhat ambiguous position on Dreamers. He indicated he would have no problem if President Trump decided to revoke the Executive Order establishing the DACA program, while at the same time acknowledging that there was no plan in the offing to actually place Dreamers into removal proceedings.
Notwithstanding Senator Booker’s reservations, and those of many others in the civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights communities, Senator Sessions will be the next Attorney General. At best, therefore, Senator Booker’s testimony was a “marker” in the event that once confirmed, Senator Sessions abandons his promise to seek justice for all Americans (which includes lawfully resident immigrants and undocumented individuals residing in the United States) and returns to the much narrower view of civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights that he has often expressed and defended during his long Senate career.
It’s a tall order for Senator Sessions to rise above the limitations of his past and take a broader, more inclusive, more humane view of the U.S. legal system. But, for the sake of all Americans, I sincerely hope he can pull it off.