The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Illinois Politicians Condemn Jeff Sessions During Confirmation Hearing

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 10, 2017 8:39PM

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the U.S. Attorney General. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty.

Senator Jeff Sessions faced questions and condemnation from a panel and numerous protesters at his confirmation hearing for the post of Attorney General Tuesday morning, along with rebukes from several Illinois lawmakers.

Sessions, who failed at obtaining a federal appointment during the Reagan administration over allegations of making racist comments and cozying up to the KKK, has long been a champion of far-right wing causes, including fierce opposition to amnesty laws and other immigration reform along with rights for the LGBTQ community, support for anti-choice legislation, and even climate change skepticism.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin called out Sessions over the Alabama Senator’s record on mandatory minimum sentencing and immigration.

“If you refuse to even acknowledge the fundamental injustice of many of our sentencing laws,” asked Durbin, “why should you be entrusted with the most important criminal prosecution in America?”

Durbin brought along Alton Mills, a Chicagoan who served 22 years in federal prison on drug charges (his sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2015), whose story is one of thousands of examples of harsh mandatory minimum and “three strikes” laws. According to Durbin, Sessions called Mills’ release an “abuse of executive power” by Obama. Sessions, who called Durbin’s remarks “unfair,” responded:

“I was criticized by the Bush Department of Justice. My legislation was opposed by them... I stepped out against my own Republican administration and said openly on the floor of the Senate that I believe these crack cocaine laws were too harsh, particularly disadvantageous to the African American community.”

Turning to immigration, Durbin admonished the senator for his opposition to the Dream Act, and every other piece of legislation that included a pathway to citizenship for any undocumented people:

“...there is not a spot of evidence in your public career to suggest that as attorney general you would use the authority of that office to resolve the challenges of our broken immigration system in a fair and humane manner.”

Durbin wasn’t the only Illinois politician to come down on Sessions. On Monday, newly-elected Senator Tammy Duckworth told the Huffington Post she was concerned over his stance on the Americans with Disabilities Act, herself being a disabled veteran. The Alabama Senator once said a law that provides protections for children with disabilities led to “the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms.”

“I personally am deeply concerned that at a time when the ADA protections seem to be eroding that we’re nominating someone who has less than a stellar record when it comes to comments made in support of disability rights,” she said.

Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly also slammed Sessions, saying she was “deeply troubled” by his nomination. “Time and time again, he has voted against laws that would protect our nation’s most vulnerable and supported unjust laws overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional,” Kelly said in a statement. “If you’re too racist in 1986 to serve on the federal bench, there is no way you should be Attorney General in 2017.”