Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination

Senate Democrats are pledging to fight Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsNBC analyst: Sessions should make Trump ‘man up and fire him’ Scarborough to Trump: Switch cable news to ‘SportsCenter’ Ex-Bush ethics lawyer: Trump calling for Clinton to be prosecuted is an ‘impeachable offense’
 MORE's nomination to be attorney general, arguing the pick feeds into larger concerns they have about the Trump administration.

Democrats are raising questions about whether the Alabama Republican would be able to provide equal protection to all Americans, three decades after Sessions was blocked from a federal judgeship because of racism accusations that surfaced during his confirmation hearing.

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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenNew Dem message doesn’t mention Trump Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Democrats roll out 'Better Deal,' new economic agenda MORE (D-Mass.) on Friday called for President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNBC analyst: Sessions should make Trump ‘man up and fire him’ Manafort to share notes from Russian meeting with Senate probe: report Trump: European Union 'is very protectionist with the U.S.' MORE to rescind Sessions’s nomination.

“If he refuses, then it will fall to the Senate to exercise fundamental moral leadership for our nation and all of its people,” she said.

“Thirty years ago, a different Republican Senate rejected Senator Sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship,” she added. “Today, a new Republican Senate must decide whether self-interest and political cowardice will prevent them from once again doing what is right."

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who will be one of three black senators in the next Congress, said he has concerns that Sessions “possesses ideologies that are in conflict with basic tenants of the Justice Department’s mission.”

Sessions has repeatedly denied the accusations that he called an African-American assistant U.S. attorney “boy” or that he called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American.”

He voted to confirm Eric HolderEric H. HolderHolder defends Mueller: 'No basis to question the integrity of Mueller' Kamala Harris slams Sessions on criminal justice Deputy AG backs Sessions' tough on crime policy MORE as the nation’s first black attorney general, though he opposed Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s nomination over immigration issues. Lynch is the first black woman to serve in the post.

Sessions voted in favor of extending the Civil Rights Act, and his defenders have noted that he filed multiple desegregation lawsuits as a U.S. attorney in Alabama.

In 1999, he led efforts to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon and Alabama native.

Democrats could face an uphill battle to stop Sessions’s nomination. Because of rules changes instituted when they ran the chamber, only 51 votes are needed to confirm a Cabinet nominee, not the previous threshold of 60 votes.

There could also be pressure on some Democrats to back Sessions and other Trump nominees. Dozens of Democratic senators will be up for reelection in 2018, including some representing states won by Trump in 2016.

Still, Democrats are signaling that they won’t give Sessions or Trump’s nominee to be the next CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), a free pass.

Sessions has one advantage over Pompeo: He’s a member of the Senate, and the chumminess of the exclusive club often helps members win confirmation battles.

Sessions is generally well liked by colleagues, even those who disagree with him on politics.

That said, incoming Senate Democrat Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTrump: Why aren't 'beleaguered AG,' investigators looking at Hillary Clinton? Trump: Washington ‘actually much worse than anyone ever thought’ Schumer: Dems didn't 'tell people what we stood for' in 2016 MORE (D-N.Y.) said that while he and Sessions “work out in the gym ... the fact that he is a senator does not absolve him from answering tough questions in the confirmation process.”

He added he has concerns about what Sessions “would do with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.”

Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Cybersecurity: Kushner says no collusion, improper contacts with Russia | House poised to vote on Russia sanctions | U.S., Japan to beef up cyber cooperation Feinstein calls for Sessions to appear in front of Senate Judiciary Committee This week: ObamaCare repeal vote looms over Senate MORE (Calif.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsIf our innovators have no reward, how will America compete? Democrats go in for the kill on ObamaCare repeal Funeral for the filibuster: GOP will likely lay Senate tool to rest MORE (Del.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySenate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels Live coverage: Trump's FBI nominee questioned by senators AT&T, senators spar over customers' right to sue MORE (Vt.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Live coverage: Trump's FBI nominee questioned by senators MORE (R.I.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalTrump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Three Dem senators call for 'immediate review' of Kushner's security clearance MORE (Conn.), all Judiciary members, pledged to give Sessions a fair but thorough vetting process.

But Feinstein, who will be the committee's top Democrat in 2017, appeared to fire a warning shot that Sessions will have to show he’s not too loyal to Trump.

“His or her primary loyalty must be to the constitution and the rule of law—and sometimes that means telling the president no,” she said of an Attorney General nominee.

Sessions was the first sitting senator to back Trump for president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress must repeal the debt limit so no party can take it hostage Collins says she hasn't heard from Trump on healthcare: He's 'focusing on others' Boehner predicts GOP will 'never' repeal, replace ObamaCare MORE (R-Ky.) gave a boost to Trump’s first Cabinet pick, saying he “strongly” supports Sessions’s nomination.

A source separately told CNN that McConnell has pledged to push Sessions’s nomination through the Senate. A spokesman for the Kentucky Republican declined to comment on a private conversation.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOvernight Cybersecurity: Kushner says no collusion, improper contacts with Russia | House poised to vote on Russia sanctions | U.S., Japan to beef up cyber cooperation Mattis rips Pentagon officials for M wasted on Afghanistan camouflage Feinstein calls for Sessions to appear in front of Senate Judiciary Committee MORE (R-Iowa) said he was “confident” that Sessions would be favorably reported by his committee.

In addition to Grassley, every Republican member on the committee quickly coalesced around the nomination. Sens. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Trump slams 'sad' Republicans who won't 'protect' him Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMike LeeMcConnell to pin down colleagues on healthcare DeMint to launch new conservative group: report Senate healthcare bill appears headed for failure MORE (Utah) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Week ahead: Senate defense bill faces delay Week ahead: Uncertainty surrounds ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (S.C.), who have policy differences with Sessions, indicated they will vote for him.

The support from Judiciary Committee Republicans, who represent a cross-section of the caucus, bodes well for Sessions. Pompeo similarly got a quick endorsement from Sens. Richard BurrRichard BurrKushner says he did not collude with Russia, had no improper contacts Dems slam Trump for 'stonewalling' oversight efforts Burr: Nunes 'created' unmasking allegations against Rice MORE (R-N.C.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioMexican politicians have a new piñata: Donald Trump Bush ethics lawyer: Congress must tell Trump not to fire Mueller The private alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program  MORE (R-Fla.), members of the Intelligence Committee.

Progressive groups and lawmakers will be pressuring Democrats to oppose Sessions.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Trump should either rescind his nomination or the Senate should block Sessions again.

Rep. G.K. ButterfieldG.K. ButterfieldDems push back against anti-Pelosi insurgents Dems divided on Trump attack strategy for 2018 Overnight Tech: Black lawmakers press Uber on diversity | Google faces record EU fine | Snap taps new lobbyist | New details on FCC cyberattack MORE, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the group would oppose Sessions’s nomination. And Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a respected party voice on immigration, offered a blistering statement.

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” he said in a statement.

Steven Law, the president and CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund that has ties to McConnell, said the group looked “forward to doing everything we can to support Senator Sessions' nomination.”

McConnell also appeared to publicly warn Democrats against slow walking Sessions.

“I look forward to the Senate’s fair and expeditious treatment of our colleague’s forthcoming nomination,” he said. “Just as it promptly processed President Obama’s first Attorney General nomination, which concluded with a timely up or down vote.”