The issue of race dominated the second day of Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for attorney general, as a black senator eviscerated Sessions’ civil rights record and the head of the Congressional Black Caucus accused the GOP chairman of forcing black lawmakers to “go to the back of the bus,” Politico reports. Three African-American men who worked personally with the nominee spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee vouching for Sessions’ character and defending him from racism accusations. The dramatic testimony underscored racial tensions surrounding the nomination of Sessions, whose bid for a federal judgeship in 1986 derailed amid allegations of racially improper behavior. Sessions Sessions testified that accusations of racism were “damnably false charges.”
Three influential black lawmakers — Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus — testified and raised concerns about Sessions’ stances on voting rights and a litany of other issues. Sessions was not present. Booker, one of three black members of the Senate, warned in unprecedented testimony that the Alabama Republican has shown a “hostility” toward civil rights that should disqualify him as attorney general. Breaking with norms in the clubby chamber, Booker argued he was “standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country” by speaking out against the conservative senator and his record on issues such as voting rights, women’s issues, immigration, and other topics. Booker’s remarks apparently were the first time a sitting senator has testified against another sitting senator up for a Cabinet job.