Senators confirmed President Donald Trump’s Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) 52-to-47-to-1, with Sen. Joseph Manchin (D.-W.V.) crossing the aisle and the nominee himself voting present.
“He’s got a big job ahead of him,” said Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), who closed out the floor debate with a tribute to his friend Sessions and his wife Mary, as more than 60 former staffers and other supporters looked on from the gallery with the nominee’s wife.
“I think he’s up to the task,” McConnell said. “He’s tough, but he’s fair. He’s persistent, but he’s respectful. He’s a likable guy, a principled colleague, an honest partner, and while we are really going to miss him, we couldn’t be prouder of him.”
There was no drama on the Senate floor as the roll was called. Manchin had already voted with the GOP to close debate on Sessions and there were no defections from the Republican side.
Sessions himself quick-walked onto the Senate floor, roughly an hour before the 7 p.m. vote–as Sen. Timothy Kaine (D.-Va.) continued to deliver his remarks opposing Sessions’ nomination to lead the Department of Justice because of what Kaine described as a weak record defending civil rights.
As the vote drew to a close, the well-wishers in the galleries allowed themselves to smile and started to poke each other. But the nominee’s wife did not smile. Instead her gaze was fixed on the Senate Democrats, who sullied her husband’s reputation at the moment of his triumph.
As the names were called, Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine) stood to congratulate Sessions as he walked over, even though she has a cast on her leg.
“I am so glad,” Collins said, as she patted him on the back. Then, Sen. Thomas Tillis (R.-N.C.) joined the two them and said, “Now, we get to call you General.”
Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren cast her vote against Sessions by pointing down and telling the clerk: No. Then she walked over to Minority Whip Rep. Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), where she joked and more than once put her hand over her mouth as they chatted.
When the final tally was called and Sessions stood with his colleagues on the GOP side, the galleries and his Senate Republicans burst into applause and the Attorney General-designate beamed.
Of the Democrats who voted against Sessions, only Sen. William Nelson (D.-Fla.) joined the clapping. But, later Sen. Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D.-Ohio) came over to shake hands with Sessions and wish him well.
Right after the vote, the Senate voted 51-to-48 to end debate on the confirmation of Rep. Thomas Price (R.-Ga.) for Health and Human Services Secretary.
With that task complete, Sessions was recognized on floor. The Alabama senator thanked his wife, staff, and supporters and tendered his resignation from the Senate effective 11:59 p.m.