Originally posted at The Hill by Lydia Wheeler.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) testified against Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) becoming attorney general in an unprecedented move Wednesday, saying he has to stand up for what his conscience tells him is best for the country.
“I know that some of my colleagues are unhappy that I’m breaking with Senate tradition to testify against the nomination of one of my colleagues,” Booker said. “But I believe, like perhaps all of my colleagues, 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 argued that Sessions has not proven he can uphold the responsibilities of an attorney general, namely ensuring equal rights for all Americans.
“Sen. Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment to a central requisite of the job to aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights and justice for all of our citizens,” Booker said.
Booker said that at numerous times throughout his career, Sessions has demonstrated a “hostility” toward pursuing equal rights.
“If confirmed, Sen. 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 his record indicates he won’t.”
Booker had five minutes to testify before the Judiciary Committee, but a panel spokeswoman said he would not answer questions from committee members.
Booker is the first sitting senator to ever testify against another sitting senator chosen for a Cabinet post. The break from tradition drew criticism from their colleagues, who accused him of using the hearing to score political points ahead of a run for president in 2020.
“I’m very disappointed that Senator Booker has chosen to start his 2020 presidential campaign by testifying against Senator Sessions,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) reportedly wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post.
“This disgraceful breach of custom is especially surprising since Senator Booker just last year said he was ‘honored to have partnered with Senator Sessions’ on a resolution honoring civil-rights marchers.”
When questioned by reporters after the hearing, Booker said he doesn’t care that he’s been criticized.
“I don’t care about pressure, I don’t care about criticism,” he said. “When it comes to matters of conscience and country, I will always stand up and I encourage other Americans, during this time in particular, to not be silent on matters of principles, on matters of protecting our Constitution, the values of our nation like equal protection under the law.”
Booker’s testimony came on the second day of hearings on Sessions. A vote on his confirmation could come later this month. Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the record will be left open for the next week.
Read more at The Hill.
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