Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE (R-Ala.) urged his colleagues to be respectful to one another during his Senate farewell speech after tensions over his nomination to be attorney general boiled over this week.
"I would say what would be my prayer for this body is that in the future maybe the intensity of the last few weeks would die down and maybe somehow we get along better," Sessions said.
He added that he could respond to weeks of criticism from Democrats by "calling names" but added it "wouldn't be appropriate."
The Senate voted to confirm Sessions to be the next attorney general largely along party lines less than a day after Senate Republicans temporarily blocked Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.) from speaking because of a blistering floor speech against him.
Sessions will formally resign from the Senate at 11:55 p.m.
Sessions pointed to his roughly 20 years in the Senate, noting that senators in both parties should be able to disagree but still get along personally.
He mentioned the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who led the charge against Sessions's 1986 nomination to the federal bench, but later asked Sessions to work with him on a piece of legislation.
"He said, 'I want to do this bill with you,' and I knew what that meant, and I appreciated that," he said. "It was a moment of reconciliation that meant a lot to me, and I think he appreciated it, too."
Warren quoted Kennedy's 1986 speech against Sessions from the Senate floor on Tuesday night, as well as a letter by the late civil rights activist Coretta Scott King.
Despite being widely liked by his colleagues, only one Democrat, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-W.Va.), voted for Sessions's attorney general confirmation.
Democrats publicly questioned whether he would apply the law fairly to all Americans or be able to say no to President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE, whom he backed during the presidential campaign.
Though most Republican senators sat and listened to Sessions's farewell speech, the Democratic half of the chamber was largely empty. Democratic Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Seven takeaways from California's recall election Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate MORE (Minn.) and Manchin sat and listened to his speech.
Sessions appeared to speak directly to the rocky start to this Senate — with Democrats slow-walking and at times boycotting votes on Trump's nominees — warning his colleagues against "denigrating people."
"I don't think we have such a classical disagreement that we can't work together," he said. "I've always tried to keep my disagreements from being personal. I've always tried to be courteous to my colleagues."
He added that it's a "plain fact" that the country has room for both Republicans and Democrats.
Sessions will now take over the Justice Department’s defense of Trump’s controversial order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.
Sessions briefly defended the president in his farewell address, noting that his position was firstly a "law enforcement office" and that the president "believes in the rule of law."
"I want to thank President Donald Trump," he said. "He believes in protecting the American people from crime and violence. He believes in a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest."