In a press call last Friday, civil rights groups lambasted Jeff Sessions as unqualified for the position of US Attorney General, urging his colleagues in the Senate to subject him to a thorough vetting before his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow.
As the NYT noted in an editorial yesterday, Sessions “has failed to turn over dozens — possibly hundreds — of documents that the committee specifically requests in its standard questionnaire,” a possible attempt to gloss over his toxic and bigoted record on civil rights as Alabama’s Attorney General, and now US Senator.
During their call, members from the civil rights groups, including the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., NCLR, and The Leadership Conference, called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay the hearing for “more time to review his voluminous nomination materials.”
“The hearing has to be meaningful,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who rejected any suggestion that the hearings are a foregone conclusion. “The point of the hearing is to reveal who the candidate is and to inform and educate the senators about his qualifications. It’s an opportunity for the Senate to actually do its job. They haven’t been in Alabama. They don’t know everything about his record.”
Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, added, “Collegiality is no substitute for the constitutional requirement of advice and consent. That is a standard we expect the committee to adhere to.”
Some also noted the timing of the hearing, expected to last two days and coming ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr., federal holiday on January 16.
Sessions, 70, was born and raised in Selma, Alabama — regarded by many as the crucible of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and scene of “Bloody Sunday,” where blacks were beaten during a peaceful protest as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
“For many of us, it’s a clear reminder that we are continued to be called to action,” said Janet Murguia of La Raza. “We need an attorney general who understands the experiences of all Americans, who sees our community as part of this country. He demonstrates again and again that he is not that person.”
Henderson “said the two-day hearings constitute a ‘rushed and rigged confirmation process.'”
In an action last week, NAACP President Cornell Brooks and several others were arrested after leading a sit-in in Sessions’ Alabama office, with possibly more actions in protest of Sessions’ nomination to come. “You can expect an escalating campaign of opposition.”
Ifill continued: “Does the nearly 40 year record of Sen. Sessions in public life demonstrate that he is fit and prepared to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, and particularly the chief enforcer of our nation’s civil rights laws?”
“No matter how the hearing process is rigged, the rules are bent, or history is rewritten by Sen. Sessions’ supporters, his long and voluminous record demonstrates that the answer to that question is no.”