Days after vowing to resist President-elect Donald Trump and his administration, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) began what it considers a “longshot” attempt to keep Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) out of the Department of Justice. During a press conference on Thursday, Chairman and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) declared the CBC’s “adamant opposition” to Sessions’ attorney general nomination and pledged to hold anyone who votes in favor of him accountable.
The CBC, made up of black senators and representatives, currently has no members who can vote against Sessions during his confirmation hearing next week, but the Caucus will pressure their colleagues Senate Judiciary Committee to do so. The group also urged Americans to call their senators to oppose the nominee, who has a long history of racism and disdain for civil rights organizations.
Following Richmond’s announcement, members of the Caucus detailed the many ways Sessions is unqualified to serve as the country’s top cop.
“We live in a time where states are passing laws requiring special identification before a citizen can cast his or her vote. We live in a time when a police officer can break protocol — shoot a person of color without cause. And we live in a time when states can pass laws making discrimination legal,” Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), a former police officer, said. “But instead of calling for investigations and even justice, Jeff Sessions stands by and makes disparaging remarks against people of color who raise their voices in protest.”
Maxine Waters (D-CA) narrowed in on alarming comments Sessions made in the past about civil rights groups and white supremacists, while speaking to his colleagues, J. Gerald Hebert, who worked for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, and former assistant U.S. attorney Thomas Figures. Sessions called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “communist-inspired,” and considered other civil rights groups “un-American.” He also implied that the Ku Klux Klan’s biggest fault was its members’ use of marijuana.
“Not only does Sen. Sessions carry a long legacy of insensitive, racially-charged comments against minorities in this country, his behavior ultimately cost him a federal judgement in 1986,” Waters said on Thursday, noting that his history of racism fits into the white-supremacist platform championed by the president-elect. “What [Trump] is doing with Jeff sessions is carrying out his promise and his commitment to that agenda, by putting the person there that he knows is opposed to civil rights.”
Sessions was ultimately considered too racist to become a federal judge by a Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, but his leadership as a U.S. Senator is indicative of the damage he’ll cause as attorney general.
In addition to making disparaging remarks about black people, Sessions supports the mass deportations of immigrants, who he argues “create culture problems.” He opposes marriage equality and expanding protections for LGBT people who face violence and discrimination. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act and said it was a “stretch” to call Trump’s statements about grabbing women’s genitals sexual assault.
Sessions also has an abysmal criminal justice record, opposing bipartisan reform legislation supported by members of Congress, law enforcement and President Obama.
“We need an attorney general who represents the American people’s best interests, by fighting to strengthen voting rights, reform our criminal justice system, prevent violence against women, and work to reform our broken immigration system, among other priorities,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the longest-serving member of the House, said during the press conference on Thursday.
The CBC’s new mission comes two days after the body expressed its commitment to resisting Trump’s administration. “The stakes are incredibly high and our community is counting on us as the last line of defense between Donald Trump and the worst of what America could offer,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told Politico.
But the CBC isn’t the only group fighting Sessions’ confirmation. The growing list includes Hebert, more than 1,100 law school professors from 170 schools, civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, ACLU, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, People for the American Way, and women’s rights advocates.
“We are fighting for the justice of everyone in America. We’re talking about voting rights, civil rights. We’re talking about the basic fundamentals that make this the best country on Earth,” Richards said. “We may not have a vote in the Senate, but we have a voice.”