Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats forced debate on the confirmation of Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General into Wednesday with belabored speeches over Sessions’ qualifications and President Donald Trump’s firing of Obama Administration holdover, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, the night before.
As Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) opened the hearing, he stated that there would be a vote on confirmation of Sessions for the position of Attorney General, but as the lengthy meeting progressed, Democrats forced the meeting on that vote into Wednesday on a technicality.
Grassley noted in his opening comments that proceedings would commence as did those in the confirmation of former Obama Administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch, adding that it was his understanding that each Democrat on the committee, except two, intended to oppose Sessions’ nomination.
Grassley referred to the more than 10 hours of questioning that Sessions endured in a prior committee hearing regarding his confirmation. The senator further noted Democrat opposition that began before those Senators even submitted questions to Sessions, insinuating the partisan political nature of their opposition.
Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California rebuked Sessions, accusing him of involvement with the President’s executive action to temporarily restrict travel from seven nations identified as exceptional security risks. It was the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama Administration which identified the seven countries in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 and its 2016 extension. Feinstein heavily referenced and quoted an article from the Washington Post in her lambasting of Sessions, accusing him of guiding the Presidents’ policy agenda.
Grassley made clear that Sessions was not involved in the drafting of the executive order based on a statement from Sessions on the matter.
Feinstein declared “no confidence” that Sessions would “uphold our laws and civil liberties as attorney general.” She went on to praise Salley Yates in her now-former function as acting Attorney General before stating, with no ambiguity, that she would vote no on confirmation of Sessions.
In the course of Tuesday’s hearing, Grassley remarked how much longer Democrats were speaking than Republicans.
Late on Monday, Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she instructed members of the Department of Justice not to defend the President’s executive action, an action which instituted a temporary travel restriction on seven terror-prone countries. Yates was a holdover from the Obama Administration, operating in the position of acting AG as the Senate considers the confirmation of Sessions.
Sen. Patrick Leahy is leading the effort to block confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General, according to NBC News. During Tuesday’s hearing, Leahy launched into a drawn out condemnation of the President’s firing of Yates.
Sen. Ted Cruz specifically cited legal guidance relating to Trump’s executive order and its legality. He rebuked Yates for allowing an act of “brazen partisan lawlessness” and policy disagreement to dictate her duties.
As Tuesday’s session neared a close, Grassley set aside 22 minutes for Sen. Al Franken to speak at Wednesday’s hearing, while Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) was told he would be granted 20 min. The committee was then scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning with a vote to commence between 11 and 12 a.m.
Democrats on two other committees moved to obstruct confirmation of President Trump’s nominees with their refusal to even appear at those hearings.
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