In an unprecedented move, New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker testified against the confirmation of fellow Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States.
It marked the first time that a sitting senator has testified against the confirmation of another sitting senator for a cabinet post in U.S. history.
“I know that some of my colleagues are unhappy that I’m breaking Senate tradition to testify against the nomination of one of my colleagues,” Booker said, adding “But I believe, like perhaps all of my colleagues, that in the choice between standing with Senate norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is bets for our country, I will always choose conscience and country.
Booker argued that while Sessions says he will uphold the responsibilities of attorney general, his record says otherwise. “Senator Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment to a central requisite of the job to aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights and justice for all of our citizens,” he said.
He added that at numerous times throughout his career, the Alabama Senator has demonstrated a “hostility” toward pursuing equal rights, “and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance these ideals.”
“If confirmed Sen. Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won’t,” he said. “He’ll be expected to defend the equal rights of gay, and lesbian, and transgender Americans, but his record indicates that he won’t.”
“He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity, but the record reflects that he won’t.”
“His record indicates that as attorney general he will object to the growing national bipartisan movement toward criminal justice reform.”
The move by Booker to break from Senate tradition drew criticism from his colleagues who accused him of using the hearing to score political points ahead of a run for president in 2020. “I’m very disappointed that Senator Booker has chosen to start his 2020 presidential campaign by testifying against Senator Sessions,” Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton wrote in a Facebook post. “This disgraceful breach of custom is especially surprising since Senator Booker just last year said he was ‘honored to have partnered with Senator Sessions’ on a resolution honoring civil-rights marchers.”