Sessions gets nod as A-G after fierce fight in Senate

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends the mock swearing-in of Luther Strange as Republican Senator of Alabama, in the old Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US on Feb 9, 2017.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends the mock swearing-in of Luther Strange as Republican Senator of Alabama, in the old Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US on Feb 9, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON • Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed on Wednesday as President Donald Trump's attorney-general, capping a bitter and racially charged nomination battle that crested with the procedural silencing of a leading Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Mr Sessions survived a near-party-line vote, 52-47, in the latest sign of the extreme partisanship at play as Mr Trump strains to install his Cabinet.

No Republicans broke ranks in their support of a colleague who will become the nation's top law enforcement official.

But the confirmation process - ferocious even by the standards of mouldering decorum that have defined the body's recent years - laid bare the Senate's deep divisions at the outset of the Trump presidency.

At the same time, the treatment of Ms Warren - who was forced to stop speaking late on Tuesday after criticising Mr Sessions from the Senate floor - rekindled the gender-infused politics that animated the presidential election and the anti-Trump women's march the day after his inauguration last month.

Mr Sessions' confirmation was met by applause from his colleagues, including a few Democrats, on the Senate floor.

Democrats spent the hours before the vote seething over the rebuke of Ms Warren, who had been barred from speaking on the floor the previous night.

Late on Tuesday, Republicans voted to formally silence Ms Warren after she read from a 1986 letter by Ms Coretta Scott King, wife of activist Martin Luther King, that criticised Mr Sessions for using "the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens" while serving as a federal prosecutor in Alabama.

Ms Warren took to Twitter on Wednesday night to promise that she - and other Democrats - would fight back, saying "this is just the beginning" in terms of opposition from the Democrats.

She used extremely strong language to warn that if Mr Sessions brings "his racism, sexism & bigotry" to the Justice Department, he would hear from "all of us". She then tweeted that the senators who voted to put Mr Sessions' "radical hatred" into power at the Justice Department would also hear from the opposition.

The senator and possible 2020 presidential candidate was presumably referring to not only lawmakers, but also those who make up the activist base of the Democratic Party that is vigorously protesting against President Trump and his policies around the country.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Sessions gets nod as A-G after fierce fight in Senate'. Print Edition | Subscribe