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AG Nominee Sessions Headed to a Full Senate Vote

January 31, 2017
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, left, talks with the committee's ranking member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, during the committee's business meeting to discuss the nomination of Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
UPDATE, Feb 1: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Sessions’ nomination to the full Senate on Wednesday morning on an 11-9 party line vote. Leafly will continue to cover the nomination as it nears a vote by the full chamber, which is expected later this week.

The nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s pick for attorney general, appeared to be on its way to a full Senate vote early Tuesday afternoon, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed the reasons for their intended votes. Through Tuesday afternoon it looked like a strict party line vote. If the pattern holds true through the roll call vote tomorrow morning, the committee will send the Sessions nomination to the Senate floor with an 11-9 favorable vote. The full Senate could vote on the nomination as early as Thursday.

Though the ultimate outcome—passage out of committee—was expected a week ago, few had foreseen such a close tally. Sessions endured relatively light questioning during his two-day confirmation hearing on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Most members of the Judiciary Committee, on which Sessions had served for many years, were cordial if not downright chummy with the long-serving Alabama senator. The most difficult questions focused on issues of racism, civil rights, and voting rights. When cannabis legalization came up in a couple instances, Sessions easily deflected questions without offering a meaningful answer.


Sessions Hearings Fail to Answer Questions on Cannabis

But after one week in office, President Trump’s radical and fast-moving series of executive actions have thrown nearly every cabinet nominee’s confirmation into question. Early Tuesday, Democrats stalled the expected committee votes on Trump’s treasury and health nominees, Steve Mnuchin and Rep. Tom Price, respectively, by simply not showing up. According to committee rules, at least one member of the minority party must be present to record a vote.

“This is not just a hearing on a nomination. This is a constitutional moment.”

Sen. Dick Durbin

No such boycott occurred at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting Tuesday morning, although it’s uncertain whether that should be taken as a show of respect for Sessions and Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) or a calculated move to push back against Trump in a highly public forum. The Democrats may have decided to show up simply to use the committee hearing as a forum to vent their outrage over the Trump’s move to block mostly Muslim refugees over the weekend as well as his firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates late Monday night.

By Tuesday morning, it was clear that Democrats on the committee were alarmed by Trump’s moves and feared that a Sessions-led Department of Justice would do nothing to stop or even slow any executive orders that might violate the US Constitution.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) captured the feeling during his turn at the microphone. “This is not just a hearing on a nomination,” he said. “This is a constitutional moment.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said, “The administration’s unpredictable, reckless, extreme agenda has cast a shadow over all nominees, not just Sen. Sessions.” Leahy said that “now we find the independence of the Justice Department under siege” following the departure of Yates, whom Trump fired Monday night for refusing to defend Trump’s immigration order in court.


Trump’s AG Nominee Continues to Waffle on Cannabis

Yesterday’s Washington Post article by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, which called Sessions the “intellectual godfather” of Trump’s dramatic first-week moves, received a lot of play from a number of Democratic senators. So did this historic exchange between Sessions, then a member of the Judiciary Committee, and Sally Yates when she appeared for her own confirmation hearing years ago:

Leahy addressed those same concerns in today’s hearing. “I have very serious doubts that Sen. Sessions would be an independent attorney general” with the inclination to ever push back or say no to Trump’s wishes, Leahy said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) quoted Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who called Sessions the “fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of Trump’s agenda.”

Republicans, for their part, wrote off the Democratic objections as simply electoral sour grapes. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) summed up the position among many in the majority: “Our friends on the other side of the aisle seem to be upset about the outcome of the election on Nov. 8.”


Data Dive: Legalization No Longer a Partisan Issue, Election Data Show

Sens. Cornyn, Grassley, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) all spoke highly of the experience, preparation, and high moral character Sessions brought to the job. Most said they intended to “enthusiastically support” the nomination.

The issue of cannabis legalization did not come up during today’s hearing. The events of the past week served to push most secondary issues completely off the Judiciary Committee’s agenda.

At midday, Committee Chairman Grassley acknowledged that the hearing was likely to go on all day. With each turn at the microphone, every senator took his or her own sweet time to air concerns, grievances, and praise—and Grassley said he had no intention of limiting them. But the outcome looked certain. “I think everybody knows how everybody’s going to vote,” Grassley said, as he attempted to keep enough senators in the room to preserve his voting quorum. Later, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) invoked a procedural rule to push the official roll call vote on the nomination to tomorrow morning. The committee will reconvene on Wednesday at 10:30am EST to vote on Sessions’ nomination.

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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  • Mike Holman

    Ha. Sheer idiocy. It’s fine to have an Attorney General who provides impunity to those who riot and loot. It’s fine to help the Treasury steal the life savings of people who investing in Fannie and Freddie. Where were these idiots when this was going on? Silent. Pathetic partisanship, that’s all this is.

    • Alex Cross

      Projection, deflection, false equivalence, black or white fallacy, scapegoating. These are all common right wing tactics. You guys are so transparent.

    • Hedda Hopper

      The Dems are owned (yes owned) by the world wealthy elitists. It’s not a party any more. t’s a cult, and f you think they care about the middle class, you’re very mistaken. Get to a computer. Check out the Illuminati, review the membership, and worst of all, review the evil they represent) . .

      • fastrock

        The Dems are identity politics driven, owned by the uber rich and gov’t dependent poor.

  • Gleb Nesis

    So, you’re saying that the politicians aren’t beholden to the people, but rather to corporations and the wealthy? Sounds like Bernie’s message all along.

  • Susanna M. Rivera

    Just don’t want anyone messing with M.MJ. it is the only thing helping my spinal stenosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, pinch nreve pain, severe anxiety, panic attacks and the list goes on since the breast cancer and my collapsed knee. Also the social security I worked all my life for it don’t want anyone messing with that either. He is in the white house because of the fools in the electoral college. Can’t wait till he really pissed on them and congress will be the ones to imprach his nasty ass out!. Never smoked marijuana until this year at age 59. If I knew how much it would have help me back then I wouldn’t have been so against it. Just have to hope another ignorant decision isn’t made on his part. Lord we hot the antichrist for President!

  • Susanna M. Rivera

    Meant to say impeach!

  • IrishForEver

    My fear is that Keebler- elf-who-fell-out-of- a-tree Sessions will go right along with the far right on MMJ. Medical marijuana is what has given my Down’s Syndrome teenage niece another chance at a life – her seizures were crippling, damaging her brain, until her mother was able to get her on Charlotte’s Web. I don’t know what will happen if they take it away from her.

    • Ken Crisp

      I dont think they will mess with the Med patients. Its the rec pot they want to eliminate !!!!!

      • Hedda Hopper

        I don’t think so. I believe they are just waiting for science io catch up with the influx of states legalizing it.

        It’s not like they can have you blow in a tube to measure your estimated BAC (like alcohol)

        It is NOT safe to use in many industries when working, nor driving.

        I also don’t think the new administration will walk away from this HUGE income potential

        Even Sessions said, as Atty Gen, his JOB would be to uphold the law. However, if Congress CHANGES the law (allowing states to determine legalization) then there would be nothing for him to enforce.
        It is really that simple.

        • Ken Crisp

          I hope your right ! Al Franken is exposing sessions right now about his misleading top cases hes a fin JOKE LIAR just like trump

      • IrishForEver

        Let’s hope not. Reasoned, thoughtful decision-making doesn’t appear to be a trademark of the current admin :-(.

    • Robert D. Bruce

      Do everything in your power to assure she has what she needs. I’m sick of an over reaching Federal Govt telling grownups what they may and may not do. Evening when the issues involves personal choice which harms NO ONE. There are many fine people in this movement that would assure your daughter gets what she needs. I’d risk prison for it.

    • Robert D. Bruce

      P.S. Jeff Sessions is the illegitimate child of J. Edgar Hoover and Strom Thurman.

  • glorpthesmelly

    If Sessions and the White Trash President take us back to nationwide prohibition, make sure to PERSONALLY thank a Trumpanzee.


  • Debbie Garland

    glorpthesmelly You are a racist who needs to just shut that racist mouth.

  • Ken Crisp

    I woudnt vote for jeff sessions for Dog Cather !!!

  • christopher rose

    Ha…Sen. Sessions looks like the uncle you have to hide from to sneak in a Christmas high….
    I just want him to say ” Damn hippies!”….just once.. 🙂
    And just remember…legal means….”controlled”
    Because us Californian”s need to be coddled for a starting price of $100M a year.
    “Bar code every plant”!!??…..Ha…Jeezus…
    The new federal court house being built in downtown Humbolt (pot central) is raising quite a few eyebrows!
    Apparently…cannabis doesn’t enjoy the comforts of a sanctuary city……

  • Andrea Hanson

    As soon as the GOP figures out how to profit from the cannabis business, it’ll be a whole nother story.. I hope.