In an unprecedented move, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker will testify Wednesday against Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions' appointment to attorney general, becoming the first sitting senator to testify against a fellow sitting senator for a Cabinet position.
"I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the Attorney General combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience," Booker, who is black, said in a statement Monday.
Sen. Sessions' decades-long record is concerning in a number of ways, from his opposition to bipartisan criminal justice reform to his views on bipartisan drug policy reform, from his efforts earlier in his career to deny citizens voting rights to his criticism of the Voting Rights Act, from his failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans to his opposition to common sense, bipartisan immigration reform. The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty.
Confirmation hearings for Sessions began Tuesday morning. The senator is expected to face opposition regarding years-old allegations of racism. As a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, Sessions failed to secure a federal judgeship in 1986 after the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony that the lawmaker made racist remarks and referred to the ACLU and the NAACP as "un-American."
Sessions rejected allegations of racism at the time, saying, "I am not a racist, I am not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality, and fairness for all."
While Booker is certainly not the only Democrat to take issue with Sessions' nomination, New York Rep. Chris Collins (R) called the New Jersey senator's decision to testify as nothing more than a "stunt."
"Cory Booker's all about the latest stunt" -- @RepChrisCollins on Booker testifying against Sessions https://t.co/hAdYK5dpsc— New Day (@New Day)1484050505.0
"If you remember what he did when he was mayor in New Jersey, the first thing he does is he tries to grab international headlines," Collins said during an interview on CNN's "New Day" Tuesday morning. "What he's doing today never before in the Senate, it doesn't surprise at all."
"What Cory Booker is doing is nothing but self-serving grabbing headlines," he continued. "Jeff Sessions is going to answer those questions."
In addition to Booker's testimony, civil rights icon and Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia is expected to testify against Sessions' nomination to attorney general, despite the fact that the two men were pictured holding hands in 2015 during a march in Selma, Alabama.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate's lone black Republican, has expressed support for Sessions, whom he described as a "consistently fair person" in a statement on his appointment.