All eyes warily watched President-elect Donald Trump’s daily pronouncements of potential cabinet members and his waffling on promises made during his campaign. The position of U.S. attorney general (AG) was accepted by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, and he expected to vacate his seat at some point between now and the time his is confirmed. The two-day confirmation hearing will take place Jan. 10-11, 2017.
Hailing from Alabama, Sessions was first elected as a member of the U.S. Senate in 1996. He was last re-elected in 2014, and his term officially ends on Jan. 3, 2021.
What Happens to Sessions’ Vacant Senatorial Seat?
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, also a Republican, will appoint an interim senator to fill the position. There has been no statement from the governor’s office regarding his plans about the appointment. However, the rules are somewhat clear.
There is a law that dictates what must be done by the governor, but it does not specify the period in which the appointment must be completed. Moreover, the 1915 law does not clearly state when Alabama is required to hold an election to fill the seat.
The speculation is that Bentley will likely appoint an interim senator shortly after Sessions takes his new post in the Trump administration. A special election could be held in 2017 for a new senator who will serve the remainder of the current term. However, since there are elections scheduled in 2018, it is likely that whoever is appointed will serve until then.
Since both Sessions and Bentley are Republican, there is little doubt the appointee will also be from the same party. This is unfortunate for Democrats, who could use another from their party in the Senate.
Why Is Sessions Qualified to Be Attorney General?
Trump needs to surround himself with other people that have actual knowledge about how the United States Government operates, and Sessions is an experienced attorney. His law career began after graduating in 1973, from the Unversity of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa.
- Sessions practiced law in Russellville, Alabama between 1973-1975.
- From 1977 t0 1981, he was a lawyer in Mobile, Alabama.
- He served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama; 1981-1993
- Sessions was Alabama Attorney General during 1994-1996.
He may be an asset for the president-elect, but many think some of his past dealings should eliminate him from the AG position.
Freedoms Sessions Could Attempt to Take Away From Citizens
Should America find that Sessions is confirmed as the United States AG, he could push forward his views on social issues citizens currently enjoy. He strongly opposes the following:
- A woman’s right to abortion;
- Same-sex marriage;
- Equality hiring practices for minorities and women;
- Enforcing the right to vote;
- Freedom of speech enjoyed by media outlets;
- and Marijuana legalization.
In April 2016, during a Senate drug hearing Sessions made clear his opposition to cannabis:
We need grown-ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact, a very real danger.
Freedom to Choose Abortion
Sessions is extremely pro-life. He signed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act on May 5, 2011. In 2008, he voted to define a zygote/fetus as a child. The vote indicated his desire to establish rights for the fetus separate from the mother from conception to birth. In 2004, his yes vote would make it a crime to harm an unborn fetus and consider the offence to be violent in nature.
His views on LGBT rights have been well documented through the years. In 1996, he fought to stifle an LGBT conference. The event featured an interfaith panel and workshops with the intent to increase awareness of the gay community and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
In his argument against the conference, Sessions cited a state law, written in 1992. The law made it illegal to use public institutions to discuss or promote sodomy and sexual misconduct.
AG Sessions took the issue to the federal court, declaring he would do whatever it took to cancel the conference.
The meeting was not canceled since to do so would violate the LGBT community’s constitutional rights. The university’s president expressed his surprise and dismay that the apparent disregard for the First Amendment.
Sessions was an Alabama senator when the Marriage Equality ruling was made by the Supreme Court in 2015. He proclaimed that making it legal for gays to marry was an “effort to secularize, by force and intimidation.”
Hate Crime Protections
As an ardent supporter of the First Amendment Defense Act, which opponents claim would permit authorities the right to discriminate as they deemed fit. Sessions has an extensive history of voting against anti-discrimination bills. His voting history indicates his desire to block efforts to establish hate crime statutes, which includes language that would make targeting a person based on their sexual orientation illegal.
Media Rights and Freedom of Information Act
The AG nominee opposes the federal reporter’s shield law and the FOIA.
Congress has attempted to pass the reporter’s shield law several times since 2005 and Sessions vowed he would weaken any provisions within the law. He contends that the proposal would not benefit journalists only but that it would shield criminals and create a national security threat.
In 2008, Sessions was instrumental in helping to thwart a bill that would allow the public greater access to presidential documents, court documents, police records, etc. Then in 2014, he helped table the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act. He has since fought to sequester any act that would provide citizens access to information.
Surveillance of Citizens Through the Patriot Act
Not only does Sessions believe that the government should have the right to spy on its citizenry but he professes the need to gather and catalog phone records. He proposed amendments that would make communication companies, social media sites, and browsers (Chrome, Foxfire, etc.) turn over confidential data without a warrant should an emergency arise. However, the terminology describing what an emergency is was vague.
Opposition to Sessions’ Confirmation
Naturally, there is a strong resistance force who are against the confirmation. Liberals, disenfranchised or marginalized groups are among those concerned about the potential catastrophe that accompanies Sessions’ confirmation.
One of Trump’s many campaign promises was to drain the swamp. His followers, Trumpettes, believed this to mean he was going to clean up Washington, eliminate capital cronyism, and make the government accountable. Nominating Sessions violates all those promises and confirmation would be a kick in the Trumpettes’ faith of the president-elect.
Opinion by Cathy Milne
Tuscaloosa News: Questions surround the appointment of interim senator
Ballotpedia: Jeff Sessions
Washington Post: Trump’s pick for attorney general: ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana’
On The Issues: Jeff Sessions on Abortion
New York Daily News: Trump’s AG Jeff Sessions fought to derail gay-rights conference
Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press: A Report on Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions on Issues that Affect the News Media
Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License