Sen. Cory Booker forcefully denounced Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general on Wednesday in a passionate testimony that broke with longstanding Senate tradition.
The New Jersey Democrat assailed the record of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, saying the Republican’s voting record suggests a “hostility” toward civil rights and criminal-justice reform.
“Sen. 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,” Booker said before the Senate judiciary committee. “In fact, at numerous times in his career, he has demonstrated a hostility towards these convictions and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance these ideals.”
Booker’s much-publicized testimony was unprecedented in that it may have been the first time one sitting senator testified against another nominated for a Cabinet post.
Booker acknowledged the unusual move during his testimony.
“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 best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country,” he said.
Democrats and civil-rights advocates have pounced on Sessions’ record, which includes criticism of the Voting Rights Act, which barred racial discrimination at the polls, as well as concern over the Justice Department’s promotion of minority rights.
“The next attorney general must bring hope and healing to this country, and this demands a more courageous empathy than Sen. Sessions’ record demonstrates,” Booker said.
“If one is to be attorney general, they must be willing to continue the hallowed tradition in our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice, for civil rights,” he added.
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers remained sceptical of the senator’s intentions, including Rep. Chris Collins, a vocal Trump supporter.
“It’s not surprising at all that Cory Booker is the one pulling this off,” Collins said on Tuesday. “What Cory Booker is doing is nothing but being self-serving, grabbing the headlines.”
Sessions’ nomination, however, is expected to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Watch Booker’s testimony below:
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