Members of the Congressional Black Caucus launched what they admitted was a “longshot” effort to block Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to lead the Department of Justice in President-elect Donald Trump’s Administration.
“He has been hostile to every community that DOJ is supposed to protect from discrimination,” Indiana Democratic Rep. Andre Carson, told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday.
A number of Senate Democrats have signaled they will oppose Sessions’ nomination, but Republicans control the chamber and none have expressed any opposition. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has also praised Sessions and said he would vote for him, another factor indicating he is on track to serve as the next attorney general.
CNN reached out to Sessions’ spokesperson for a response to the comments by members of the CBC, but did not receive a response.
Following sit-in protests earlier this week at Sessions’ Mobile, Alabama, office, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement to CNN the senator “has dedicated his career to upholding the rule of law, ensuring public safety and prosecuting government corruption.”
“Many African-American leaders who’ve known him for decades attest to this and have welcomed his nomination to be the next attorney general. These false portrayals of Sen. Sessions will fail as tired, recycled, hyperbolic charges that have been thoroughly rebuked and discredited,” she said.
Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who chairs the CBC, acknowledged the chances were slim that they’d be able to successfully derail his confirmation as attorney general.
“None of our fights have ever been easy and we don’t let the fact that it may be a longshot ever deter us and we are fighting for the justice of everyone in America,” Richmond said.
Thirty years ago Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship but during his Senate confirmation hearing he was accused of making racist remarks, a charge he vigorously denied. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted down his nomination, but the Alabama Republican went on to serve as attorney general in his home state. He was elected to the Senate in 1996 and was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign.
Richmond, asked if he believed that Sessions was racist didn’t directly answer but said his “his beliefs are discriminatory, his actions are discriminatory.” He added “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
Multiple members of the black caucus pointed to concerns with Sessions’ positions on voting rights, immigration and civil rights. They also took issue with his position on the Justice Department’s role in addressing clashes between local communities and police departments.
Sessions’ supporters maintain that the Capitol Hill group does not speak for all African Americans and that the Alabama Republican has support from a number of black leaders.
Currently there are 49 members of the CBC, but only two are Senators — New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris. Neither participated in Thursday’s news conference focused on Session’s nomination.