© Greg Nash
Black Democrats on Capitol Hill hammered President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE's pick for attorney general on Thursday, charging that Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE (R-Ala.) holds discriminatory views against African Americans and other minorities that disqualify him for the post.
The lawmakers, all part of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), said Sessions's track record on issues like civil rights, immigration and criminal justice reform would undermine the liberties of minority groups in defiance of the Justice Department position he seeks to hold.
The critics aren't mincing words.
"He is a person that is extreme and divisive, [and] he is one that does not believe in the dignity and the value of every person," said Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeToomey takes aim at Schumer's spending windfall for NYC public housing Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief Ethics watchdog accuses Psaki of violating Hatch Act MORE (D-Ohio), a former head of the CBC.
"He is a person that does not believe that every single child and every single person has the God-given right to access to a successful life," she charged.
The CBC members are highlighting allegations that Sessions has a history of making insensitive comments toward blacks, allegations that prompted a Republican-led Senate committee to reject Sessions's nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986.
"This is serious," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). "Not only does Sen. Sessions carry a long legacy of insensitive, racially charged comments against minorities in this country, his behavior ultimately cost him a federal judgeship."
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the newly installed head of the black caucus, stopped short of labeling Sessions a racist — "It's irrelevant," he said — but suggested Sessions's positions on certain issues are fundamentally discriminatory.
"His beliefs are discriminatory, his actions are discriminatory, and the things that he proposes and the things that he supports — and the things that he doesn't support that are helpful to the minority community — have a disproportionate impact on people of color," Richmond said.
"So whether it's intentional or unintentional, the fact that it is there is a problem," he added. "And I learned a long time ago in a really unsophisticated manner that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck."
Sessions's office did not immediately respond Thursday to the CBC charges. But a spokeswoman, speaking more generally of the controversies that sunk his 1986 nomination, told The Hill this month that the accusations are "a smear campaign" that was discredited long ago.
The CBC members are not focusing solely on the past, however. They're pointing to Sessions's recent views as evidence that he'd be an unreliable defender of the minority groups he'd be charged with protecting as the nation's top law enforcer.
The lawmakers rattled off a long list of recent debates where they deem Sessions's position to be "too regressive," in the words of Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.).
Those positions include Sessions's support for a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a central provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act; his hardline approach to immigration reform; and his opposition to a 2009 law which expanded the federal definition of a hate crime to include violence against gays and lesbians.
"The people of Alabama may have picked him to be their senator, but the rest of America wants an attorney general who will protect everyone's civil rights," Carson said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to examine Sessions's nomination during a pair of hearings next week, when Senate Democrats are sure to raise the same concerns voiced by the CBC.
Still, no Republicans have voiced their opposition, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) predicted this week that his Alabama colleague would sail through the process.
Richmond on Thursday acknowledged that Democrats, who hold a minority in both chambers, are virtually powerless to block Sessions's nomination, which requires the backing of just a simple majority in the Senate. But the CBC, he said, isn't watching without a fight.
"We may not have ... a vote in the Senate, but we have a voice. And we have a voice for millions of Americans," Richmond said. "Because it's a long shot, that's irrelevant for us, because of the importance of the issue."