Sen. Cory Booker announced late on Monday that he will break longstanding Senate norms and testify against fellow sitting Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s US attorney general nominee.
Booker told MSNBC on Monday that he will testify against Sessions on Tuesday or Wednesday during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings surrounding his nomination, joining prominent civil-rights activist Rep. John Lewis and Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Cedric Richmond.
“I’m breaking a pretty long Senate tradition, being a sitting senator tomorrow testifying against another sitting senator. Please understand that I think these are extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures,” Booker said.
Booker cited Sessions’ stances on policing, voting rights, marijuana legalization, and LGBT issues as particular areas where he disagreed with the Alabama senator, saying Sessions has a “posture and positioning that I think is really dangerous to this country.”
“We’re at a strike point around issues of policing, around issues of civil rights, around issues of gay and lesbian equality within our country. We’ve seen consistently Sen. Jeff Sessions voting against everything from the Matthew Sheppard act, speaking out against key ideals like the Voting Rights Act, taking measure to try and block criminal justice reform,” Booker said.
He added: “There’s a whole spectrum of things that Jeff Sessions’ own words represent a threat to vulnerable populations in this country, and something that I feel necessary to do everything that I can to speak out against.”
Though senators have voted against confirming fellow members to Cabinet positions, and expressed opposition during the question-and-answer portion of hearings, Booker’s decision to actively testify against his colleague represents a break with longstanding precedent.
Republicans were quick to decry Booker’s move.
Rep. Chris Collins, one of Trump’s more active supporters on cable television, described Sessions as a well-respected “southern gentleman,” and dismissed Booker’s testimony as a publicity stunt.
“Cory Booker is all about the latest stunt,” Collins told CNN on Tuesday. “What he’s doing today, never done before in the Senate — it’s not surprising at all that Cory Booker is the one pulling this off.”
He added: “What Cory Booker is doing is nothing but self-serving, grabbing the headlines.”
Many Democrats including Booker noted their opposition to Sessions’ attempts to kill immigration-reform efforts, his stance against the legalization of gay marriage, and his support for tough sentences for those convicted of drug crimes.
While Trump’s transition team has claimed that Sessions has a “strong civil-rights record,” many Democrats and civil-liberties groups blasted his criticism of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited inhibitions on the right to vote, as well as his criticism of the DOJ’s civil-rights division, which he claimed occasionally supersedes its authority and perpetrates “civil wrongs.”
Sessions is also staunchly opposed to marijuana legalization and decriminalization — in April he declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana. He has also faced backlash for what he called a joke in the 1980s, when he said that he thought member of the KKK were “OK, until I found out they smoke marijuana.”
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