The Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, next week.
Sessions was a controversial pick; in 1986, he was nominated to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but he was not approved because allegations of racist behavior were raised. However, this time Sessions’ approval only requires a simple majority in the Senate, and because Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, it’s very unlikely that Sessions will not be approved next week.
Here’s what you need to know about the voting record of the probable next attorney general of the United States.
1. He Voted Against Adding Sexual Orientation to the Definition of Hate Crimes
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, rates every member of Congress based on their voting history, with zero indicating an extremely anti-LGBT rights record and 100 indicating an extremely pro-LGBT rights record. They give Sessions a rating of zero percent.
In 2002, Sessions voted against the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001, which would expand the definition of a hate crime to include crimes committed against a person because of their sexual orientation. Sessions also voted against this same idea when it came up in 2000.
In 2006, Sessions voted in favor of amending the Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The Marriage Protection Amendment stated, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”
And in 2013, Sessions voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act with an amendment that included protections for lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans.
2. He Has Consistently Voted Against Amnesty & Cosponsored a Bill Requiring All Government Services to Be in English
Jeff Sessions was the first United States Senator to show support for Donald Trump, as he appeared at a Trump rally wearing a Make America Great Again hat in August 2015. He officially endorsed Trump in February 2016. Part of the reason for this was because Sessions and Trump shared similar feelings on immigration reform, and Sessions quickly became an immigration and national security advisor to the Trump campaign.
In 2007, Sessions voted against the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Sessions said that this would be a slap in the face to those who came to the country legally. A year earlier, Sessions also voted against the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which again would have allowed long-term undocumented immigrants to gain legal status, and it would increase the number of guest workers.
“The American people are with us on this issue,” Sessions said at the time. “They expect us to create an immigration system that works and is legal. They don’t want to reward those who break into our country with every single benefit we provide to those who come legally. To me, that is, indeed, amnesty.”
In 2006, he voted against the Kyl Amendment to Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for guest workers.
Sessions introduced the Border Crossing Deterrence Act, which would establish mandatory minimum penalties for illegal immigrants.
He also co-sponsored S.2719, which would require government services to be in English only.
3. He Signed the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’
The National Right to Life Committee rates each member of Congress on their voting record when it comes to abortion, with 0 being extremely pro-choice and 100 being extremely pro-life. Jeff Sessions receives a score of 100.
During the 112th Congress, Sessions was a sponsor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. This would make the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits any federal funding of abortions, permanent. At the moment, the Hyde Amendment is a “rider” that must be attached to the HHS appropriations bill every year, but the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make it permanent law.
This particular bill was highly controversial because of the way it defined rape. It states that there may be exceptions “if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” The phrase “forcible rape,” which seems to imply that there is some kind of rape that is not forcible, did not previously appear in the Hyde Amendment. The bill fails to define “forcible rape.”
Sessions also voted yes on S.AMDT.3330, which would bar HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions.
4. He Voted to Extend the Voting Rights Act, Though He Has Complained That It Is Intrusive
Jeff Sessions has had a mixed history when it comes to the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 bill that ensured minorities can not be restricted from voting. Sessions’ staff points to the fact that he voted to extend the act in 2006, but he has also said that it is a “piece of intrusive legislation,” according to The Nation.
And even though Sessions voted to extend the bill in 2006, he complained about Section 5, a portion of the bill that required states with a history of racial discrimination to receive federal approval before implementing any voting changes. He later said of this 2006 vote to extend the bill, “In retrospect, that was probably too long an extension because there’s just huge areas of the South where there’s no problem,” according to Talking Points Memo.
Later, he celebrated the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision Shelby County v. Holder, which declared that Section 4(b) – the portion of the Civil Rights Act that determines which state and local governments Section 5 applies to – is unconstitutional.
“Shelby County never had a history of denying the vote, certainly not now,” Sessions said at the time. “There is racial discrimination in the country, but I don’t think in Shelby County, Alabama, anyone is being denied the right to vote because of the color of their skin. It would be much more likely to have those things occur in Philadelphia, Chicago, or Boston.”
5. He Voted Against Providing Additional Resources to the Veterans Health Administration
In 2014, Americans on both sides of the political aisle were outraged over reports of negligence at the Veterans Health Administration, with CNN reporting that at least 40 veterans had died while waiting for care at VA facilities across the country.
In response, the U.S. Senate voted on a bill to allocate resources for 26 new VA facilities in 18 states and $500 million to hire additional doctors and nurses. Only three senators voted against the bill: Ron Johnson, Bob Corker, and Jeff Sessions.
At the time, Sessions said he was opposed to the bill due to spending concerns, saying that this is an entitlement that the federal government can not afford.
“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 when the bill was first raised, according to Reuters.
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