This week, Common Cause activists in a dozen states—including right here in Pennsylvania—are delivering petitions urging their U.S. Senators to vote against the nomination of Sen. Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III (R-AL) to serve as U.S. Attorney General.
For decades, Sen. Sessions has been an outspoken critic of the Voting Rights Act, one of the nation’s most critical pieces of civil and voting rights legislation, which paved the way for an inclusive democracy. As Attorney General, Sessions would be charged with deciding how and when to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which he has repeatedly condemned as an “intrusive piece of legislation.” The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today to send the nomination forward to a vote of the full Senate in the coming weeks.
“Senator Sessions represents a very serious threat to the Voting Rights Act and to the ability of millions of Americans to cast their ballots on Election Day,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “The right to vote is a touchstone of our democracy and we want the Senators we are contacting today to be fully aware that their constituents are watching closely to see where they come down on this vote.”
Petitions are being delivered today to district offices of Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Due to a winter storm, petitions will be delivered tomorrow in the Lewiston and Augusta offices of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
The 596,327 signatures on the petitions were gathered by Common Cause, MoveOn.org, the NAACP, People Demanding Action, NARAL, People for the American Way and Daily Kos.
On only a handful of occasions in its 46-year history has Common Cause opposed presidential nominees. Sen. Sessions’ nomination was added to that short list based on his record and his longtime criticism of many of the laws he would be charged with enforcing as Attorney General.
Common Cause previously opposed the nominations of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, John Tower as Secretary of Defense and Ed Meese as U.S. Attorney General. The nominations of Bork and Tower were rejected by the U.S. Senate. Meese was confirmed and served as Attorney General but resigned from office over his role in a defense contracting scandal.
In 1986, Sessions’ nomination to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama was rejected by a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. After listening to extensive testimony about controversial statements made and actions taken by Sessions, the Judiciary Committee was unable to muster enough votes to even pass the nomination on to the full Senate without recommendation.
For his current nomination, Sen. Sessions attempted to create for himself a civil rights record that simply does not exist. As three former DOJ attorneys noted in a recent op-ed, Sen. Sessions completed no substantive work on at least three of the four cases he claimed in his recent questionnaire as representing his most significant civil rights cases. Tellingly, Sen. Sessions failed to include these same cases in his questionnaire for his unsuccessful 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship.