The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to remove a vital piece of the 1965 Voting Rights Act returned to the fore Wednesday during an initial panel discussion at Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing as the next attorney general. But the morning hearing, during which issues of Sessions’ political and prosecutorial record were debated by his opponents and supporters, was overshadowed by the star power of the afternoon panel and the abrupt ending of their appearance. The afternoon hearing was adjourned after each panel member made introductory remarks. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ended the hearings and instructed everyone that written statements can be submitted into the record until Tuesday of next week. Beth Levin, a spokeswoman with Grassley, said a committee vote has not been set. She said that the committee cannot act until the nomination has been officially sent to Congress, “which can’t happen until after” President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
Sessions’ confirmation has been viewed as a formality since the GOP holds a Senate majority and no Republican senator has spoken out against nominee. But among Sessions’ opponents, the format of the afternoon sessions was a concern.
Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana likened the format to discriminatory public bus seating arrangements in the Deep South decades ago. Other afternoon speakers included New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, an icon from the civil rights era.
“Testifying at the end of all of this is the equivalent of being made to be at the back of the bus,” said Richmond. “To have a living legend like John Lewis handled like this is beyond pale.” He added, “Senator Sessions … he should be disqualified.”