Dems Exhaust Delays on Sessions’ Path to Confirmation

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general on Wednesday, ending more than a week of resistance from committee Democrats.

The 11-9 party-line vote came a day after Democrats used their second delay tactic: an obscure Senate rule that prevents committees from meeting past the first two hours of the Senate’s day. Earlier, the Democrats had delayed the vote by requesting more time for lawmakers to review additional answers Sessions had provided them in writing.

Making his confirmation by the full Senate all but assured, no Republicans having come out against the Alabama senator, and Senate rules crafted by Democrats during the last administration prevent lawmakers from filibustering most executive nominees.

Sessions could take office without a single Democrat voting for him.

“After eight years of attorneys general under Barack Obama who disregarded the law, who used the Department of Justice as a partisan arm to go after their enemies, I think the American people are ready for an attorney general who will demonstrate integrity, who will simply uphold the law and uphold the Constitution,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters after the vote. “That’s what Jeff Sessions, I believe, will do. That’s what his record demonstrates he will do.”

Democrats have consistently objected to Sessions, saying he is too close to President Donald Trump and has a poor record on civil and voting rights.

Coziness with Trump became an especially crucial point for Democrats after the president fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates in the fallout over his immigration ban targeting Muslims.

Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump, often appearing at campaign events wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

Sessions also has praised the Supreme Court decision that cut down key points of the Voting Rights Act, and was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 after allegations surfaced claiming he made racially insensitive remarks while working as a prosecutor in Alabama.

Sen. Al Franken, who was one of the fiercest questioners of Sessions during the January confirmation hearing, voiced concern that Sessions overstated his involvement as a prosecutor in several civil rights cases.

“Before this committee votes to advance this nomination, it’s important that we know whether senator Sessions is able or willing to separate fact from fiction and speak truth to power,” Franken said during the hearing. “I am not confident that he is, and I will be voting against him.”

Despite the delays, the Judiciary Committee’s consideration of Sessions went more smoothly than other hearings for Trump’s nominees.

Earlier on Wednesday, two Senate committees changed their rules to let Republicans approve Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price without any Democrats present.

Democrats had boycotted the hearings for Trump’s choices to lead the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services for two days over concerns that the nominees were not truthful during their confirmation hearings.

Democrats on Wednesday also boycotted a vote on Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.