US Senate confirms Sessions as attorney general

Sessions, 70, a staunch Trump supporter will take charge of the Justice Department and its 113,000 employees, including the 93 US attorneys throughout the country. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Washington, United States Feb 09, 2017, 01.19 AM (IST)

The US Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as attorney general Wednesday, despite vitriolic debate over his civil rights record and whether he can serve as the nation's top law enforcement officer independent from President Donald Trump.

Lawmakers greenlighted Senator Sessions as the 84th US attorney general on a mostly party-line vote of 52 to 47, with just one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia joining the Republican majority. Sessions voted present, and when the tally was announced many senators broke into extended applause for their colleague.

Manchin's daughter is the CEO of Mylan, the pharmaceutical company being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for creating legislation that expanded the availability of their product, EpiPens, or epinephrine injectors. Manchin was the lone Democrat to approve Sessions, and now Sessions will control the Justice Department investigating his daughter.

×

Sessions was a US attorney for the southern district of Alabama from 1981 to 1993, before serving two years as the state's attorney general. He won a seat in the US Senate in 1996. But in 1986 his career was almost derailed when a US Senate panel rejected his nomination for a judgeship amid concerns over past comments he made about blacks, and over remarks that appeared sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan.

There were major protests across America over the appointment of Sessions. On Tuesday senators broke into fiercely personal debate, which saw the Democrat Elizabeth Warren barred from speaking after she was deemed to have broken chamber rules on decorum. Warren had tried to read a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, denouncing the civil rights record of Jeff Sessions when he was . 

Trump has harangued Democrats for slow-walking his nominees, blasting their obstruction as a "disgrace".

×

He appeared particularly angered by the delay on Sessions, who as attorney general would wield enormous power regarding the administration of justice, including on the issue of voting rights.

Sessions, widely seen as an inspiration for Trump's anti-immigration policies, is just the sixth of 15 cabinet members to be confirmed, in addition to the cabinet-rank positions of CIA director and US ambassador to the United Nations.

Sessions will take charge of the Justice Department and its 113,000 employees, including the 93 US attorneys throughout the country.

He steps in amid a swirling legal debate over Trump's most controversial White House action to date, an executive order temporarily blocking all refugee arrivals and immigration from seven mainly Muslim countries. Sessions, 70, a staunch Trump supporter became a pivotal figure in his campaign and transition team.  

The notorious white supremacist David Duke applauded Trump's decision to appoint Jeff Sessions.

×

(AFP)