This morning at 9:30 the Senate Judiciary Committee will open the senate confirmation hearings for Trump nominee Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General. The hearings will be held over a two-day period, concluding on Wednesday. You can find a full schedule of hearings for the week here.
I have mentioned Sessions in numerous posts, and in late November I wrote this one detailing the reasons I am against his nomination. There is no need to re-hash old ground, so suffice it to say that Sessions is a proven racist who will likely set civil rights back 100 years if confirmed. How likely is his confirmation? Let us look at some of the things that may affect the process.
First, each nominee is required to be cleared by both the independent Office of Government Ethics (OGE) and the FBI. There is concern because a number of Trump’s nominees have not yet completed the process nor filed the appropriate financial paperwork, though apparently Sessions is not among those, which would indicate that he has already been cleared by both agencies. The purpose of this OGE review is to review potential conflicts of interest and determine the course of action the nominee must take in order to resolve such conflicts.
Second, on Tuesday, Sessions will face questions on his 20-year tenure in the Senate, including his staunch stances on immigration, mass incarceration and civil rights. Then on Wednesday the second part of Sessions’ confirmation hearing follows very public pushbacks from the NAACP, whose members staged a sit-in at his Alabama office last week and were arrested, and by more than 1,400 faculty members from 180 law schools in 49 states, all of whom signed a letter opposing his nomination for attorney general. Other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have publicly opposed Sessions’ appointment on the grounds of his stance on police reform, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, Muslims’ rights, racial justice, LGBT rights, women’s rights, privacy rights, torture, and abortion rights. Frankly I have to wonder if two days will be enough to cover all the questions he should be made to answer.
Once the hearings are complete, the Judiciary Committee can either move the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, or decide not to, which in essence kills the nomination and it would be back to the drawing board for Trump. If the nomination is moved to the Senate floor, the Judiciary Committee makes a recommendation, either pro, con, or neutral.
Third, this is the makeup of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will conduct the hearings and make a recommendation to the entire Senate:
Majority – Republican
Minority – Democrat
|Chuck Grassley, Iowa, Chairman||Dianne Feinstein, California, Ranking Member|
|Orrin Hatch, Utah||Patrick Leahy, Vermont|
|Lindsey Graham, South Carolina||Dick Durbin, Illinois|
|John Cornyn, Texas||Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island|
|Mike Lee, Utah||Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota|
|Ted Cruz, Texas||Al Franken, Minnesota|
|Ben Sasse, Nebraska||Chris Coons, Delaware|
|Jeff Flake, Arizona||Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut|
|Mike Crapo, Idaho||Mazie Hirono, Haiwaii|
|Thom Tillis, North Carolina|
|John Neely Kennedy, Louisiana|
The present modus operandi seems to be that most all Republicans in Congress are supporting Trump in all things. Good little lap puppies they are. One concern is that Senator Cruz is vociferously supporting the nomination. He wrote a piece for Politico that I encourage you to read. I found it highly offensive, given Sessions’ history. I suspect that Cruz will sway any errant Republican members of the committee who might be considering voting ‘nay’ with his strong-arm, bullying tactics.
Fourth, there is the composition of the entire Senate. The Senate is comprised of 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If every senator votes along party lines, then the simple majority will be made and Sessions will become the next Attorney General of the United States. If, however, just three Republican senators vote against the confirmation, then he will not be confirmed. In the event of a tie, Mike Pence will cast the tie-breaking vote, and we all know how he will vote. The simple fact that there is a Republican majority in the Senate would likely indicate that Sessions’ hearing and subsequent confirmation will go through with little or no resistance from the majority. My hope is that, given the past history and contentiousness of this particular nominee, one might hope that there are at least three Republican senators who would follow their conscience, if in fact they are possessed of one. (One interesting aside: Senator Sessions can actually vote for himself, as he no doubt will.) The Washington Post predicts that most of Trump’s nominees, including Jeff Sessions, will be confirmed with few problems, and I am inclined to agree. But we shall see. Perhaps there are a few good men sitting on the right in the Senate.
***ABC News has an excellent, informative article titled Senate Confirmation Hearings: Everything to Know. It is a plain language, understandable explanation of the process that I highly recommend.