Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is breaking a longstanding tradition by testifying against a fellow sitting senator, Jeff Sessions, for a Cabinet post during a confirmation hearing. Sessions is President-elect Donald Trump’s U.S. attorney general nominee. Sen. Booker noted these are extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures. He is joined by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who also are testifying against Sessions.
“The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Sen. Sessions can honor this duty,” Booker said in a statement issued by his office, reports The Inquirer. “I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the Attorney General combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience,” Booker added. “Sen. Sessions’ decades-long record is concerning in a number of ways, from his opposition to bipartisan criminal justice reform to his views on bipartisan drug policy reform, from his efforts earlier in his career to deny citizens voting rights to his criticism of the Voting Rights Act, from his failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans to his opposition to common sense, bipartisan immigration reform.”
Black Republican Sen. Tim Scott Stands by Sessions
Reportedly, when Sessions was a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, he was denied a federal judgeship because the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony during hearings in March and May 1986 that Sessions had made racist remarks and called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American.”
Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s sole African American Republican member, released a statement in support of Sessions. “We may not agree on everything, but you would be hard pressed to find a nominee for any post that any Senator is in 100 percent agreement with, Scott said in his statement. “I have gotten to know Jeff over my four years in the Senate, and have found him to be a consistently fair person. I will continue working for what I believe is in the best interest of my state and my nation, such as criminal justice reform and stopping illegal immigration.”
Booker’s Progressive Stance on Social Issues
Formerly the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Booker was only the ninth African American to head to the upper House of the United States Congress in 224 years when he won a special election in 2013 (after the death of Frank Lautenberg) to become one of 535 members of the 113th Congress, which has been locked in partisan warfare and political gridlock, making it the least productive and most polarized legislative branch in American history. Ironically, Ivanka Trump, daughter of the President-Elect, hosted fundraisers for his Senate campaign in 2013. In his reelection win, Booker was joined by Sen. Scott, when South Carolina voters elected the first African American candidate to a statewide seat since the Civil War and Reconstruction. The win also made him the first ever African American to serve in both the House and Senate.
Booker is progressive on social issues, supporting women’s rights, same-sex marriage, immigration reform, and gun control. He favors a higher minimum wage, corporate tax reform, and greater college financial assistance. He also wants to spur job creation through infrastructure spending and increased manufacturing in the USA. Another major concern is criminal justice reform.