Civil Rights Leaders, Black Lawmakers Hammer Senator Sessions on the Hill

Civil Rights Leaders, Black Lawmakers Hammer Senator Sessions on the Hill

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Seven African Americans testified on the last panel of a two-day hearing about Senator Jeff Sessions’ bid to become the next Attorney General of the United States.

They included civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.).

It was clear that the last panel was the least important to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who controlled the theatrics of the hearing, and that the timing was in order of importance after Sessions’ testimony was completed.

The first people to testify were much more likely to appear on national TV and be questioned by more senators. Late in the day, on the second day of the hearing, the CBC Chairman took issue with the schedule.

“I want to express my concerns about being made to testify at the very end of the witness panels. To have a Senator, a House member, and a living civil rights legend testify at the end of all of this is the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus,” Chairman Richmond said flatly at the very top of his testimony. “Every senator that casts a vote to confirm Senator Sessions will be permanently marked as a co-conspirator in an effort to move this country backwards towards a darker period in our shared history.”

Richmond continued: “If [Senator Sessions] were in fact a champion for civil rights, wouldn’t the civil rights community support his nomination rather than speaking with one voice in near unanimous opposition?”

NAACP President Cornell Brooks testified on a panel before Richmond and was no less forgiving on Sessions as he delivered his testimony.

Sessions’ record “reveals a consistent disregard of the civil rights of vulnerable populations,” Brooks told the committee saying Sessions was “unfit” to be Attorney General.

“We take no pleasure in stating that, in the view of the NAACP, Senator Sessions’ record conclusively demonstrates that he lacks the judgment and temperament to serve effectively as attorney general of the United States,” Brooks said, adding that Sessions, “evinces a clear disregard, disrespect and even disdain for the civil and human rights of racial and ethnic minorities, women, the disabled and others who suffer from discrimination in this country.”

Senator Booker produced a historic first by appearing in opposition to Sessions at the hearing. Booker became the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague at a confirmation hearing.

“I know that some of my many colleagues aren’t happy that I am breaking with Senate tradition, to testify on the nomination of one of my colleagues,” Booker told the committee. “But I believe, perhaps like all of my colleagues in the Senate, that in the choice between standing with Senate norms and standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.