The Senate voted 52-47 Wednesday night to confirm Jeff Sessions, a longtime U.S. senator and former federal prosecutor, as the nation’s 84th attorney general.
Only one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined Republicans in confirming Sessions, who voted “present.”
Sessions, a Republican representing Alabama in the Senate since 1997, will take over a Justice Department that conservatives see as tainted by political corruption during the Obama administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lauded President Donald Trump’s choice:
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) February 9, 2017
Senate Democrats who opposed their colleague’s nomination succeeded in delaying a Judiciary Committee vote while continuing to attack his character. Their tactics ultimately failed to deter Sessions’ confirmation by the full Senate, where Republicans have 52 seats.
During debate Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., accused Sessions, 70, of trying to “chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens” when he was a U.S. attorney in Alabama.
The Senate subsequently voted to prohibit Warren from speaking for the remainder of the debate because she had broken a rule against “impugning” a fellow member of the Senate. Among her tweets after the vote:
There’s no Rule 19 to silence me from talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. So let me say loudly & clearly: This is just the beginning.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 9, 2017
During his legal career, supporters said, Sessions actually worked to desegregate schools in Alabama and brought criminal charges against Ku Klux Klan members. Blacks who worked with and for Sessions rallied to his defense and disputed 30-year-old allegations.
Before representing Alabama in the Senate, Sessions served as the state’s attorney general for two years and as a federal prosecutor there for 12 years. In 1986, the Senate rejected President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Sessions to a federal judgeship after liberal opponents such as the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., accused him of racism.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., defended Sessions against those decades-old attacks in floor speech Wednesday.
Trump announced Sessions as his choice to lead the Department of Justice in November, stating: “It is an honor to nominate U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general of the United States. … He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and U.S. attorney in the state of Alabama.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017
Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer who is president and general counsel of Public Interest Legal Foundation, a nonprofit law firm that works to protect the integrity of elections, told The Daily Signal that Sessions will fight for equal justice under the law.
“Finally, the United States will again have an attorney general that stands for all of the law—not just what he agrees with,” Adams said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal, adding:
Sessions has an immense task before him. He will inherit a department filled with employees that have dedicated their careers to prioritizing ideological advancement over equal enforcement of law. Despite this, I am wholly confident that Jeff Sessions is the right man for the job.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal and legislative organization, said he is excited about the fresh perspective Sessions will bring to the job. In a statement provided to The Daily Signal, Sekulow said:
After eight years of a Justice Department that was deeply politicized and incapable of doing its job, I am truly delighted that Attorney General Sessions will be at the helm of one of the most critical departments in our government.
In contrast to the one Senate Democrat who voted for Sessions, 10 Republicans voted to confirm his immediate predecessor, Loretta Lynch, and 19 voted to confirm President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, in 2009.
Sessions long has supported enforcing and reforming immigration law, and he backed Trump’s proposal to build a wall at the border with Mexico.
During the Republican presidential primary, Sessions was the first senator and one of the only members of Congress to endorse Trump.
He was a member of major Senate committees, including Judiciary, Budget, and Armed Services.