WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats delayed a vote on Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General using a procedural trick during a Judiciary Committee hearing.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer initiated the slowdown from the Senate floor by invoking what’s known as the “2-hour rule” that bars Senate committee meetings from running past 2 pm.
Democratic members of the committee delivered lengthy speeches against Sessions and President Trump’s executive order restricting entry into the US from selected countries soon after the hearing began at 9:30 a.m.
One speech by Sen. Mazie Hirona (D-Hawaii) dragged on for 23 minutes, in part, because she recited a speech by former President Reagan.
Schumer announced his intentions on Twitter—mid hearing – at 1:21 pm: “The American people need answers on exec orders from Sen. Sessions. Jud Cmte shouldn’t proceed until we get them so I’ll invoke the 2hr rule.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — who gave Democrats the leeway to vent – delayed Session’s confirmation vote until 10:30 am Wednesday once he learned of Schumer’s move.
Grassley stressed the importance of getting Sessions in office and alluded to President Trump’s firing Monday night of the acting attorney general Sally Yates after she declined to defend his immigration orders.
“This country without an attorney general we saw last night was a major problem, we need to be here as Republicans and get this job done,” Grassley said.
Republicans stood by Sessions character and integrity and blamed Democrats for having sour grapes over the election loss.
“All the political and policy differences our friends have on the other side I think really is more a reflection of their disdain and their upset over the fact that President Trump won the election and their preferred candidate did not,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Sessions already survived 10 hours of grilling by fellow senators Jan.10.
But Tuesday’s hearing highlighted Democrat frustration over Trump’s executive orders and presidential memoranda since taking office.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she couldn’t vote for Sessions because he wouldn’t stand up to the president as Yates did.
“That statement [from Yates] took a steel spine to stand up and say no,” Feinstein said. “That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do.”
Feinstein said she has “no confidence” Sessions could do that.
Grassley defended Sessions.
“He knows the department better than any nominee for attorney general in recent memory,” Grassley said. “He’s a man of integrity. He’s a man of his word. And most importantly, he will enforce the law regardless of whether he would have supported passage of that law as a member of the Senate.”
“The Senate Democrats have done everything in their power to slow the work of the Senate,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, noting 16 nominees still await confirmation.
“The mere idea they are not even showing up to hearings is truly outrageous.”
Since Republicans have the votes, however, there’s little doubt Sessions will eventually be confirmed.