A Baptist senator broke with Senate tradition Jan. 11, becoming what is believed to be the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague at a confirmation hearing for a Cabinet position.
Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) said some fellow senators were unhappy with his decision to testify against U.S. attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I believe that in the choice between standing with Senate norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country,” Booker explained his decision on Facebook.
Booker, a member of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., joined civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in saying Sessions’ record on civil rights disqualifies him from leading the Justice Department under President-elect Donald Trump.
“Senator Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment to a central requirement of the job as attorney general — to aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights and justice for all,” Booker said. “In fact, at numerous times in his career, he has demonstrated a hostility toward these convictions and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance these ideals.”
Booker, former mayor of Newark, N.J., whose rising political star as the state’s junior senator is drawing comparison to that of a younger Barack Obama, said the next attorney general “must bring hope and healing to the country.” He said that will demand “a more courageous empathy” than what is demonstrated in Sessions’ voting record.
“If confirmed, Senator Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won’t,” Booker said.
“He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans, but his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity, but the record indicates that he won’t.”
Booker said that if confirmed as attorney general Sessions would likely obstruct “the growing national bipartisan movement toward criminal justice reform.”
“His record indicates that we cannot count on him to support state and national efforts toward bringing justice to a justice system that people on both sides of the aisle readily admit is biased against the poor, drug addicted, mentally ill and people of color,” the African-American senator said.
Booker, whose church is affiliated with the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., recently sponsored legislation to prevent Trump from creating a federal registry for Muslims entering the United States.