WASHINGTON (CNN) The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as the next attorney general, surviving a vocal push by Democrats to derail his nomination.
The 52-47 vote was mostly along party lines, though one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, joined the Republicans to back their Alabama colleague.
The final vote for Sessions — one of Trump’s closest advisers and his earliest supporter in the Senate — is scheduled for Wednesday evening, after 30 hours of debate from Democrats and a stunning fight between liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Republicans which ended in her being forced to sit down after she was accused of impugning Sessions.
The fight over Sessions nomination spurred some of the most jarring, and at times personal attacks, rooted in allegations that Sessions was a racist — claims the Alabama senator and his supporters have fiercely denied. Even early in the nomination process, one of Sessions’ colleagues, Cory Booker, became the first sitting senator to testify against another sitting senator during his confirmation hearing.
Shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to sing the praises of Sessions, after Democrats spent hours criticizing him.
“He’s just a likable guy, one of the most humble and most considerate people you’ll ever meet,” McConnell said. “He’s a true Southern gentleman.”
In the debate Tuesday evening, after Republicans already blocked a Senate filibuster, Warren reignited that debate by reading from a 1986 letter Coretta Scott King sent opposing Sessions for a federal judgeship.
“‘Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts,'” Warren read from King’s letter. McConnell accused Warren of impugning Sessions on the Senate floor — a violation of Senate rules — and after a series of procedural votes, she was forced to sit down and stop debating.
Warren’s censure and subsequent reaction continued to largely overshadow the Sessions fight in the hours before his vote, but the Massachusetts Democrat told CNN’s Manu Raju said Sessions, whom she served with in the chamber, is just the latest example of a poor Cabinet choice.
“We may not have the votes to stop him,” she said, “but we sure as hell need to make it clear to the Republicans and to the American people exactly who Donald Trump is putting in charge of our government.”
Sessions was ultimately blocked from a federal judgeship and carried that battle scar into Wednesday’s final confirmation battle.
Senator Orrin Hatch, issued the following statement after the Senate voted to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as the 84th Attorney General of the United States:
“Having served with Jeff Sessions for more than twenty years, I know him to be a man of integrity, honesty, and fairness. As Attorney General, Jeff will return the Justice Department to its core mission of enforcing and defending our nation’s laws. In doing so, he will restore the Department’s reputation for even-handedly administering justice for all Americans after years of disturbing mismanagement and politicization. As the longest-serving member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to working with him in this vital endeavor.”
“Given that Jeff is one of the most qualified Attorney General nominees in history and has long enjoyed the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I find it extraordinarily disheartening that his confirmation process devolved into such a partisan spectacle. The responsibility for this debacle rests solely with Senate Democrats, who kow-towed to the worst obstructionists instincts of their left-wing base. Their scorched-earth tactics wrongly impugned the integrity of this good man by painting a caricature of their fellow senator that they knew to be completely inconsistent with reality. Going forward, I hope they will reconsider their approach so that we may avoid lasting damage to the confirmation process and the Senate as an institution.”