Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was confirmed to be the next attorney general of the United States Wednesday by a Senate vote of 52-47. Sessions himself abstained.
The confirmation vote ended a relatively long fight over Sessions’ nomination, which culminated in a partisan slug fest the night before, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats attempted to portray Sessions as racially insensitive.
“Sen. Sessions fully understands the dangers posed by the 300 jurisdictions around the nation that have adopted policies that impede federal immigration enforcement and protect criminal aliens.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) forced a vote to reprimand Warren for breaking rarely invoked rules of Senate decorum, and won. Warren could not continue debate on Sessions.
Sessions has been in the Senate since 1997, when he became only the second Republican elected by Alabama for the upper chamber since Reconstruction.
Before that, Sessions was the attorney general of Alabama.
But it was Sessions’ nomination to a U.S. judicial seat in 1986 that inspired the Democrats to try to sink Sessions.
Sessions’ nomination by former President Reagan was defeated in 1986 after a series of charges were made against Sessions, a Mobile native. One person testified that Sessions had made a racially insensitive joke about the Ku Klux Klan.
The late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Sessions could not be trusted to apply equal justice under the law. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 against his nomination.
Roughly a decade later, Sessions was serving in the Senate with Kennedy. In May 2009, Sessions was selected by his colleagues to serve as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same committee that rejected him in 1986.
The nomination of Sessions to be U.S. attorney general in 2017 may have been just as contentious, despite the victory.
After testimony, William Smith, who was chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee for more than a decade and now serves as chief of staff for Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), was confronted by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
Jackson Lee yelled at Smith, who is black, and told him he needed to look in the mirror and remember that he came from slaves. Smith would not comment on the matter to LifeZette.
Conservative groups celebrated the win.
“Sen. Sessions brings a solid pro-life and pro-religious liberty record to the Department of Justice, which has been plagued for years by corruption and ideological policies that have undermined conscience rights and countless other civil liberties,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.
But it is immigration reform groups that may be the happiest. Sessions made illegal immigration a high-profile issue for the GOP over the last few years, and was the first U.S. senator to indicate he supported Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2016.
“Sen. Sessions fully understands the dangers posed by the 300 jurisdictions around the nation that have adopted policies that impede federal immigration enforcement and protect criminal aliens,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “The new attorney general will also have the ability to help the nation’s beleaguered immigration courts, which are buckling under historic backlogs caused largely by the Obama administration’s ‘catch and release’ policies. Today, nearly 500,000 cases are waiting to be heard, and many of those released will never show up for their hearings.”