If you’re in a real hurry today or for the next few weeks I’ll save you some time reading the rest of today’s column and following some upcoming Senate hearings – Jeff Sessions will be confirmed as Attorney General. Elections have consequences, the Senate is still to a large degree a club and America will suffer.
As of this writing Donald Trump has made five appointments; they range from bad to terrible. The appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be the next Attorney General is the worst!
Sessions will need Senate confirmation and despite a history of racism so blatant that it caused his appointment by Ronald Reagan to a federal judgeship to die in the Senate Judiciary Committee on which he now serves and the danger he poses to America he will be confirmed.
Even with today’s partisan divides the Senate is to a great degree a very collegial debating society where despite deep philosophical differences most of the members get along personally, especially those with significant seniority. They tend to confirm members of the club in part due to personal friendship and in part because they would like the same courtesy extended to them if they ever became the nominee. Remember a Senator is only going to accept an appointment to a position they want.
There are enough Republicans in the Senate to confirm Sessions as long as they don’t break ranks. At least one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has already gone on record as supporting Sessions when his nomination makes it to the Senate floor. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein is charged with leading the Democratic opposition to the nomination in committee. There again, the Democrats simply do not have the votes to block the nomination at that level. I’m certain Feinstein and some fellow Democrats like Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal will ask some tough questions but the outcome is totally predictable.
If a few Republicans made a principled stand against Sessions then a few more moderate Republicans like Maine’s Susan Collins might well break ranks. Collins, in particular, has shown a willingness to break ranks when it made a difference but is not going to defy her Party in a losing cause. That coupled with solid Democratic nays could sink the nomination. Unfortunately too many Democrats will be unwilling to vote against a colleague.
Three current challenges facing America will be ill served in a Session Justice Department: voter suppression, mass incarceration and police-community relations with particular emphasis on race relations.
Since the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v Holder the country has been operating with large, important sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 inoperable. That has green lighted Republican voter suppression efforts at the state level in red states. The only safeguard has been an aggressive Justice Department that attempted to keep states somewhat in check and preserve voting opportunities by any other means available. Based on his past there is no reason to believe that Sessions will follow in the footsteps of Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch.
The image of the police with citizens of color and the perception of police by most of them have been problems in American society for decades. Over the last few years, via many incidents, the situation has come to the forefront. Sessions harkens back to the days of Jim Crow and White Citizens’ Councils; does anyone expect him to put police-community relations on the front burner?
While the issue of mass incarceration has made for the strange bedfellows of Kentucky’s Rand Paul and New Jersey’s Cory Booker don’t expect Jeff Sessions to worry about a bunch of black and brown people being locked up. While this problem will not be primarily solved by the Justice Department it can be a major player in formulating a solution and can in fact make a significant dent in the problem on its own. Again the plight of mainly black and brown people is of little consequence to a guy like Jeff Sessions.
One thing I do expect from a Sessions Justice Department is a bunch of wasteful (of your tax dollars) investigations. They will be political in nature. The witch hunts will include the villains and legends of right wing mythology in an effort to placate Bubba. We will probably see another Benghazi investigation along with one of the Clinton Foundation. I’m willing to bet that no attention will be paid to the Donald J. Trump Foundation which is looking more like a slush fund/scam for The Donald’s personal pleasure and image enhancement.
A partisan racist is not what America needs running the Justice Department. If Sessions had not spent the last 20 years in the Senate that body might actually conduct some real hearings and reject his nomination. As is a racist from within their midst will get a free pass. A bunch of senators will have played nice and the country they are sworn to serve will lose in the process.
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