Senate Republicans are signaling they want to move quickly on 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’s attorney general nomination.
The Alabama Republican kicked off his Capitol Hill lobbying effort on Tuesday, meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyAnother voice of reason retires Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 MORE (R-Iowa), who told reporters that he wants a confirmation hearing before Inauguration Day.
Grassley noted that the first attorney generals for former President George W. Bush and President Obama came before their bosses were sworn into office.
“Historically, at least in the case of [John] Ashcroft and in the case of [Eric] Holder, we’ve had the hearings prior to the inauguration,” Grassley said. “And it would be my intention to move ahead in that procedure that we did with Ashcroft and with Holder.”
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.) signaled that Grassley’s call for an early hearing is part of a broader strategy.
“I’ve encouraged all our committee chairmen to go ahead and have hearings and markups on the Cabinet appointments,” he told reporters. “In the past we’ve been able to confirm a number of the incoming president’s Cabinet appointments on day one.”
Sessions needs a simple majority in the Senate to win confirmation given the move by Democrats to gut filibuster rules that previously would have required a supermajority of 60 votes.
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) indicated Tuesday that he didn’t regret the decision to change the filibuster.
Republicans are expected to have 52 seats in 2017, and one Democrat, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Biden seeks to quell concerns over climate proposals MORE (W.Va.), has already announced support for Sessions.
Every Republican member of the Judiciary Committee has pledged to support his nomination, and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) said Tuesday that it’s a “virtual certainty” that he will be confirmed.
“Beyond the merits of the nominees, which are very solid, you have the fact that the Democrats changed the rules to require 51 votes,” said Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate.
Democrats are signaling they intend to battle over Sessions.
Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee in a letter to Grassley said they expect the committee hearings to last at least four days.
“Senator Sessions has developed an extensive record on important issues within this committee’s jurisdiction. ... The committee must devote adequate time to examining those issues,” they wrote. “We urge you to ensure that the nomination process is thorough, transparent, and fair—not just a rubber stamp.”
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California MORE (Calif.), the panel’s ranking member in the next Congress, joined Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised On The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP MORE (Vt.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill Democrats look for plan B on filibuster The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (Ill.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Nations plan to pump oil despite net zero promises On The Money — It all comes down to Bernie and Joe MORE (R.I.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan MORE (Minn.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE (Minn.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsManchin threatens 'zero' spending in blowup with Sanders: reports Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (Del.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) on the letter.
Sessions is generally well-respected by colleagues, and the Democrats noted they each have “personal and cordial relationships with him.”
But Democrats are signaling a desire to make the Sessions fight about 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. They question whether Sessions, one of the earliest supporters of the president-elect, will be able to say no to Trump when he takes the reins at the Justice Department.
“He will have to be an independent attorney general who is willing to set aside personal beliefs and political positions in service of larger obligations,” they wrote. “The attorney
general must be the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer, and must enforce the laws with a dispassionate and even hand.”
Sessions was blocked 30 years ago from a federal judgeship after allegations of racism surfaced during committee hearings. He has 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 also voted for Holder, the first African-American attorney general, and in favor of extending the Civil Rights Act. At least nine law enforcement groups have backed his nomination.
Democrats said that the Senate “must ask whether Senator Sessions is the right man to lead the agency charged with securing and protecting the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans.”
Grassley is warning Democrats that he won’t allow them to slow walk Sessions’s nomination or use the hearings to launch personal attacks against their colleague.
“The confirmation process of John Ashcroft to be Attorney General turned into a reckless campaign that snowballed into an avalanche of innuendo, rumor and spin,” he said in a statement after the meeting. “That will not happen here.”
Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat who sits on the committee, stressed that Democrats want a “thorough” hearing but stopped short of saying they would object to Grassley’s proposed schedule.
“If they can get prepared, I don’t want to slow it down. We want to go into a thorough hearing, but we’re not going to speed up this schedule,” he said. “We want to do it in an orderly fashion.”
Alex Bolton contributed.