Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination

Senate Democrats are pledging to fight Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel Grassley: Comey must say if FBI investigated Sessions Gingrich: Media was right, special elections were a referendum 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 WarrenLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Budowsky: Dems madder than hell MORE (D-Mass.) on Friday called for President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel OPINION: Trump’s bluff: Perfectly legal Will Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? 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. HolderOvernight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigns Holder mulling 2020 bid 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 SchumerFCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases Trump: Pelosi's leadership good for the GOP Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill 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 FeinsteinGrassley: Comey must say if FBI investigated Sessions Grassley doesn't see how Judiciary 'can avoid' obstruction probe Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear storage plans MORE (Calif.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Overnight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | Senate Dem offers patent reform bill MORE (Del.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyGoing national with automatic voter registration Republicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba Trump draws a harder line on Cuba MORE (Vt.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseJudiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting GOP hits the gas on ObamaCare repeal Dems limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote MORE (R.I.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger Democrats tout suit on Trump’s foreign business connections 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 McConnellRocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism Sanders: I hope McConnell listened to protesters outside his office 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: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel Protesters target GOP on their way out of town over healthcare Grassley: Comey must say if FBI investigated Sessions 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 FlakeThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Scalise's condition upgraded to fair MORE (Ariz.), Mike LeeMike LeeRocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill Overnight Healthcare: Latest on Senate healthcare bill | Four conservatives say they'll oppose | Obama slams bill | Health groups offer scathing criticism Four Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (Utah) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Judiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting Why does Paul Ryan want to punish American consumers? 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 BurrOvernight Tech: Uber CEO resigns | Trump's Iowa tech trip | Dems push Sessions to block AT&T-Time Warner deal | Lawmakers warned on threat to election systems | Overnight Cybersecurity: Obama DHS chief defends Russian hack response | Trump huddles on grid security | Lawmakers warned about cyber threat to election systems Lawmakers told of growing cyber threat to election systems MORE (R-N.C.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioWill Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Ivanka Trump turns to House GOP on paid family leave 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. ButterfieldVoting advocates notch win at Supreme Court Supreme Court strikes down NC districts as illegally based on race Dems once critical of Comey line up to denounce his firing 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.”