Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has been an early supporter of Donald Trump and will be rewarded with a cabinet position in the Trump administration. The 69-year-old Sessions is among the most conservative members of the Senate and was first elected in 1996.
Sessions reportedly has options for a role in the Trump cabinet. A source told Bloomberg that he is interested in being Secretary of Defense. CNN lists him as a possible Secretary of State and Attorney General, due to his legal background as the U.S. Attorney or the Southern District of Alabama and his term as the state’s Attorney General in 1995-1997.
Sessions has been picked to be a member of the Trump transition organization. On November 17, the New York Times reported that that Trump met with Sessions at Trump Tower and was “unbelievably impressed.”
Sessions is married to Mary Blackshear and the two have three children.
Here’s a look at Sessions’ career in the Senate and relationship with Donald Trump.
1. Sessions Was the First Sitting Senator to Endorse Donald Trump During the Primaries
Two days before the Super Tuesday primaries in March, Sessions became the first sitting U.S. Senator to endorse Trump’s candidacy. Sessions and Trump made their first appearance together at a rally in Madison, Alabama in February. Sessions’ decision to endorse was seen as a major blow to Ted Cruz‘s presidential campaign.
“I told Donald Trump this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement,” Sessions told the crowd, Politico reported. “Look at what’s happening. The American people are not happy with their government.”
Over time, Sessions’ support for Trump became key during primaries in the South and it worked during the general election. Trump won every state on the East Coast south of Virginia and won Sessions’ home state of Alabama with 62.9 percent of the vote.
During the second day of the Republican National Convention, it was Sessions who formally nominated Trump for the Republican nomination.
2. Sessions Said a Border Wall is ‘An Essential Part’ of Fixing Illegal Immigration
Sessions does not support citizenship for illegal immigrants and has fought against any kind of immigration reform. When there was an attempt to pass a bill that had bipartisan support in 2013, he came up with 15 amendments to it in order to stop it, ABC News notes. Sessions couldn’t stop the bill from passing through the Senate, but the House of Representatives version stalled, so it never became law. Of course, Sessions voted against it in the Senate.
The Alabama senator has also supported building a border fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, one of the reasons he didn’t like the 2013 bill was because he claimed that it had a “specific provision” that allows Homeland Security Secretary Janet Nopolitano to avoid having to built a border fence if she doesn’t want to. However, PolitiFact ruled that that this comment was false, as the fill did require a pedestrian fencing that is at least 700 feet long to be built before illegal immigrants could be provided a path to citizenship.
Sessions still supports a border wall, which has been a cornerstone of Trump’s immigration proposals. In a February 2016 interview with Breitbart, Sessions said a border wall is “an essential part” of fixing the problems at the Mexican border.
Look, we can fix this situation on the Mexican border. It is fixable. And a wall, a barrier, is an essential part of that. And it will be the right thing once we make clear to the whole world, including our neighbors to the South, that the border is not open and we mean it and we’re going to enforce it, and if you attempt to come, you’ll be apprehended and promptly deported, the numbers will drop dramatically—as a government witness acknowledged to me in a hearing couple of days ago. Obviously, this is true.
On October 31, Sessions issued a fresh statement criticizing the Obama administration’s immigration policy. “There is a crisis at our southwest border—one that in many ways exceeds the crisis we saw just two years ago, one that further undermines the integrity of our immigration system, but one that most of the media has elected to ignore,” the statement reads.
3. Sessions Has Called for the Trade Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be Rejected
Although Sessions has voted for various trade deals during his time in the Senate, he has called for a complete rejection of the Trace Pacific Partnership deal. Trump and Clinton were also against TPP during the campaign.
In an August statement on his website, Sessions said that Obama is trying to pass TPP during his lame-duck session. In September, The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama was making a “last-ditch effort” to pass the agreement by enlisting business leaders to convince lawmakers to approve it.
In his statement, Sessions said of TPP:
While President Obama suggests that an American rejection of TPP is tantamount to a complete withdrawal from the global economy, he is badly mistaken. We are now and will continue to be engaged in trade. That will not change. But Americans know these agreements have allowed trade practices that unfairly close manufacturing plants, costing millions of high paying jobs. Our people are hurting. We cannot afford to lose a single job because of a bad trade deal.
Sessions told the Montgomery Advertiser that he now regrets voting for trade deals.
“It cannot be our policy to have workers from abroad take jobs while we provide support payments for unemployed Americans,” Sessions said in July. “Bad trade deals close factories, and end high paying jobs. Excess immigration floods the labor market reducing jobs and wages.”
4. Sessions Served in the U.S. Army Reserve & Advocates for a Strong U.S. Military
Sessions has a military background, as he served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1973 to 1986 and rose to the rank of captain. During those years, he had a legal career in Mobile, Alabama and was the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama from 1975 to 1977. From 1981 to 1993, he served as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
Sessions, who is a ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, ruffled some feathers as one of three senators to vote against a bill to speed up health care for veterans after it was discovered that wait times at VA hospitals were making it difficult for veterans to receive health care on time. As Reuters notes, Sessions was concerned about the budget for the bill.
“I feel strongly we’ve got to do the right thing for our veterans. But I don’t think we should create a blank check, an unlimited entitlement program, now,” Sessions said.
It is true that bill is going to be expensive to pay for. The Congressional Budget Office found that it could cost $35 billion over a 10-year period.
Sessions did vote for the war in Iraq in 2003.
5. Sessions is Pro-Life & Opposes Same-Sex Marriage
Sessions is anti-abortion. in 2006, he voted for a bill that required parents of minors to be notified if their child received an out-of-state abortion and voted against a 2005 bill to spend $100 million on programs intended to reduce teen pregnancy.
Despite his pro-life stance, Sessions said in 2009 that a Supreme Court Justice nominee’s position on abortion would not automatically disqualify him or her from earning his support. He also said that a nominee’s sexual orientation wouldn’t factor into his decision.
On the two-year anniversary of the repeal, Sessions and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who also voted against it, told The Hill that they would let the Military handle the issue of openly gay servicemembers. “I think we’ll respond with what our military commanders say and what President Romney says as commander-in-chief,” Graham said.
Sessions also opposes same-sex marriage, but after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states in 2015, Sessions said that Alabama has to follow the law.
“Ultimately they’ll have to follow the law,” Sessions told AL.com when asked about local Alabama officials who refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses. “The question of what that means and exactly what that requires them to do, I guess they’ll have to decide for themselves and seek their own legal counsel.”
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