John Lewis to testify at Senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions

Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP file/Molly Riley
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Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP file/Molly Riley

The U.S. Senate confirmation hearing of Sen. Jeff Sessions, set to begin today, is already steeped in drama.

In the latest twist, a panel of African-American lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, has been added to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s witness list. The move will elevate the issues of race and civil rights during the public vetting, which will stretch over two days.logo-all

Lewis hasn’t said whether he’ll actually be testifying against Sessions or speaking about civil rights more broadly. He’s likely to note their shared biography. Both grew up in small towns in Alabama, separated by 75 miles and the wall of segregation.

Lewis, 76, was born in Troy, just south of Montgomery. Session, 70, hails from Selma — yeah, that Selma — just west of the Alabama capital.

As our colleague Alan Judd wrote in his excellent profile of Sessions, questions about the Alabama Republican’s attitudes on race have loomed large as the Senate prepares to consider his nomination.

Civil-rights groups have criticized his nomination, and several were arrested during a sit-in at his office in Mobile. Supporters, however, have tried to moderate Sessions’ image by distributing photographs from the 2015 Selma commemoration – particularly those in which he appeared with Lewis.

Like this:

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) clasps the hand of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) during a commemoration of the "Bloody Sunday" march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. This photo was published online by U.S. U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.).

 

Click here for more photos of Jeff Sessions through the years.

Today’s Washington Post takes a look at a Trump transition team’s memo that claims Sessions has a “strong civil rights record,” which includes “a host of desegregation lawsuits he filed in Alabama while he was U.S. attorney.”

The topic of civil rights isn’t the only drama surrounding Lewis’ testimony. Democratic senators are furious that Senate Judiciary leaders scheduled Lewis’ panel to speak only after outside experts give their testimony, according to Politico, breaking with custom on Capitol Hill and forcing Democrats to wait hours to address the committee.

On that same delayed panel with Lewis will be Cory Booker, D-N.J. His appearance, to testify against a Senate colleague, will be highly unusual. Here’s how he explained his decision on MSNBC:

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Senate Democrats’ request to expand the scope of U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s Senate confirmation hearings has President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team miffed.

Two-dozen Democrats on Monday wrote to the GOP chairmen of the two committees that are vetting Price, requesting that their upcoming confirmation hearings include witnesses who could speak to the impacts of Price’s proposed policies.

The committees “have an obligation to hear from witnesses who can speak directly to how Americans and their families would be impacted by the policies Congressman Price has championed, such as the 30 million Americans who would lose health insurance coverage if the (Affordable Care Act) is repealed,” the senators wrote. A transition spokesman shot back with this:

“Historically, and on a bipartisan basis, Cabinet nominees have been evaluated solely on his or her qualifications and not policy views. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous and a radical break from Senate tradition.”

All of this is just the latest in what we’re sure will be a nasty confirmation fight. Democrats on their own don’t have the votes to stop Price’s nomination, but they plan to make his Senate confirmation as painful as possible.

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Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday named former state representative Mike Cheokas and Lee Anne Cowart to serve on the state Board of Education. Cowart is a businesswoman from Thomson.

Cheokas, from Americus, lost his re-election bid in November – in part because of his support for the governor’s initiative to allow the state to assume control of individual failing schools throughout the state. So this is something of a consolation prize.

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Dr. Roy Daniels, an east Cobb County physician, has announced his candidacy for in the race to replace state Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta. Hill has announced his plans to run for the Sixth District congressional seat being vacated by Tom Price, who is set to become secretary of health and human services in the Trump administration. Daniels is a Republican.

Mitch Kaye, a former state House representative, has also stated his interest in Hill’s seat.

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The state Capitol was apparently the latest stop on former congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s “re-connect tour.”  The west Georgia Republican was hanging out at the statehouse on Monday for the first day of the session, trading war stories with veteran lawmakers and lobbyists about his days as a rising legislative star.

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Valerie Jarrett, the exiting Barack Obama adviser, highlights state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams in a farewell piece:

In Georgia, for example, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams worked across the aisle with her governor and colleagues to help those with criminal records more easily obtain occupational licenses. She gives me hope, and she’s not alone. Since the president announced in 2015 that the federal government would “ban the box” for federal job applicants, giving formerly incarcerated Americans a fairer shot at a job after they’ve served their time, eight states have adopted the “second-chance” initiative — six of them through executive action — that provides a mechanism for reduced sentences for first-time offenders. Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 cities and counties now have fair-chance hiring practices in place for people who have paid their debts to society.

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Whoops. A link to state Sen. Vincent Fort’s campaign for Atlanta mayor was still live on Monday afternoon, hours after the legislative session had begun. Georgia law bans lawmakers from receiving any political donations once the 40-day session starts, which explained the rush of checks changing hands outside the Gold Dome Monday morning.

Fort’s campaign said it was an technological snafu and said any donations they received wouldn’t have been processed anyways. .


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