WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate on Wednesday approved Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, bringing to a close one of the most contentious nomination fights of President Donald Trump’s young presidency.
The 52-47 vote fell mostly along party lines, with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who voted with all Republicans to confirm Trump’s choice. Sessions voted present on his own nomination, meaning he did not have an impact on the final tally.
As the votes came in Sessions stood on the floor, shaking hands and with long-time colleagues like Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham. Applause came from the chamber after the Alabama Republican had the votes to take his spot in the Trump administration.
Democrats spoke against Sessions from the Senate floor through the night on Tuesday, including one instance where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a Senate rule more than a century old to stop Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter critical of Sessions written by civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in 1986.
Democrats have cited claims that Sessions made racially charged comments while working as a prosecutor in Alabama to argue against him taking the top job at the Justice Department. The charges surfaced during his bid for a federal judgeship in 1986, and eventually derailed his chances to take the bench.
“I’d hoped at this point in my life I would be pointing to our problems with race as something from the past, but it is the current challenge we face and it’s a challenge which the attorney general must face squarely,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ala., said on the floor before the vote. “And that’s why I can’t be supporting him for that position.”
Democrats had also questioned whether Sessions will be able to serve as a check on Trump should the president try to enact any unconstitutional laws. Sessions was the first senator to support Trump’s run for the White House and appeared with the then-candidate on the campaign trail, often wearing a red Make America Great Again hat.
With the exception of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Sessions has received perhaps the harshest treatment of any of Trump’s nominees. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey broke longstanding Senate tradition and testified against Sessions during his confirmation hearing, and Democrats twice delayed the committee vote necessary to send him to the full Senate.
The vote to force Warren to stop speaking Tuesday night showed the increasing frustration Republicans felt with the constant stream of Democrats coming to the floor to accuse their college of harboring racist feelings.
“What we’re talking about here, unfortunately, is an attack on conservatism more than it is Jeff Sessions,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the Senate floor before the vote.