WASHINGTON ― Throughout his four years in the Senate, Cory Booker has remained relatively uncontroversial. On Wednesday, that will change when the New Jersey Democrat testifies against the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.
It’s an unprecedented move ― marking the first time in Senate history that a sitting senator will testify in a confirmation hearing against another sitting senator for a Cabinet position.
“I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague,” Booker said in a statement. “But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience.”
The confirmation hearing for the Alabama Republican is expected to bring up a past riddled with allegations of racism. In 1986 he was nominated to be a federal judge but was rejected over assertions that he called a black attorney “boy” and once suggested a white lawyer was a race traitor for working for black clients. Sessions has apparently withheld decades’ worth of records, including documents pertaining to that 1986 nomination.
“Senator 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,” Booker said. “The attorney general is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty.”
Last week, Booker, along with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, if they could testify in the confirmation hearing.
“I was pleased when Chairman [Chuck] Grassley (R-Iowa) agreed to make this possible, however I regret that they will have to wait until after a nine-member panel speaks,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Asking three members of Congress to sit and wait until the end of the hearing to testify — likely at the same time the Senate will be holding important budget votes — is deeply unfair.”
Three more of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks are set to receive confirmation hearings on Wednesday as well.
Sen. Sessions’ office did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.