A Sitting Senator Will Testify Against A Presidential Nominee For The First Time In History

Corey Booker Is ‘Breaking A Pretty Long Senate Tradition’

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (L) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) participate in the second day of Loretta Lynch's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing January 29, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (L) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Attorney General Designate Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which begin Tuesday at 9:30 EST, promise to make history. For the first time in the 228 years that the United States Senate has been in session, a sitting Senator will testify against another sitting senator nominated for a cabinet post. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has called Sessions’ nomination “concerning in a number of ways”, chief among them what Booker perceives to be a checkered history on voting rights. 

The Judiciary Committee — which failed to confirm Sessions for a federal judgeship in 1986 — is expected to hear testimony over the course of at least two days. Chaired by Charles Grassley (R-IA) and with Diane Feinstein (D-CA) as ranking member, it includes Republicans Orrin Hatch (UT), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Cornyn (TX), Michael Lee (UT), Ted Cruz (TX), Jeff Flake (AZ), Mike Crapo (ID) and John Kennedy (LA). The Minority is made up of Democrats Patrick Leahy (VT), Dick Durbin (IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Al Franken (MN), Christopher Coons (DE), Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Mazie Hirono (HI).

    Booker himself noted the historic implications, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:
    “I’m breaking a pretty long Senate tradition. We’ve seen Jeff Sessions — that’s Senator Jeff Sessions — consistently voting against or speaking out against key ideals of the Voting Rights Act, taking measures to try to block criminal justice reform.”

    NBC News also notes:

    Booker’s office said Monday that the Senate historian had been unable to find any previous instance of a sitting senator testifying against a fellow sitting senator nominated for a Cabinet position.

    RELATED: Fox News Dismisses Racist Comment By Sessions As ‘Joke’

    Along with Booker, Representatives John Lewis (D-AL) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) will also be testifying in the hearing. Like Booker, their primary objections stem from Sessions’ past stances on civil and voting rights. Politico points out:

    Sessions, a 20-year veteran of the Senate who holds solidly conservative views on a litany of legal issues he would oversee at the Justice Department, has come under fire for racially charged comments he allegedly made decades ago. Those remarks helped derail Sessions’ nomination to the federal bench in 1986 before the Senate Judiciary Committee — the same panel he’ll appear in front of this week for his attorney general nomination.

    But Democrats and outside groups fighting Sessions’ nomination are trying to broaden their case against the genial Alabama Republican beyond his reported comments and to his views on civil rights, voting issues, immigration and other hot-button topics. And Democratic senators who sit on the powerful Judiciary Committee have said they won’t go easy on Sessions during their questioning on Tuesday.

    Booker is often mentioned among the most likely Democratic candidates for President in 2020. A high profile stance like this will likely only add to the speculation. Since the 2016 election, Booker has had a strong social media presence, often in strict opposition to the Trump transition. It also opens him up to further accusations of “grandstanding” from the right. Though with a standard bearer who feels the need to attack all critics at any time on twitter, it would be a hard argument to make.

     

    Watch Senator Booker Discuss His Plans To Oppose Senator Sessions Here:

    Featured Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Ed Hanratty is a Reverb Press contributor and freelance political journalist. A lifelong New Jerseyan, he prides himself on having just enough Garden State sarcasm and skepticism to keep his bleeding heart in check. Keep up with Ed's work and random ramblings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the links below...but not Snapchat — that's where he's decided to draw the social media line. (For Now)