Statement on the Nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, January 9, 2017

Contact: Max Rosenblum: 202-387-2800, 

WASHINGTON – In advance of the Senate hearings on the nomination of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as the next U.S. Attorney General, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and wider Reform Movement:

The Reform Movement has significant concerns about the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States. As the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Senator Sessions would be responsible for enforcing key civil rights laws that he has demonstrated hostility toward over more than 30 years in public life. On issues of vital importance to the Reform Movement, including voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality and immigration, Senator Sessions has a voting record and a history of statements that raise alarm.

On civil rights in particular, Sen. Session’s record is deeply troubling. The Reform Movement is fiercely committed to protecting the right to vote and reinstating the full strength of the Voting Rights Act, which was partly drafted at our headquarters in 1965. Senator Sessions has called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” and hailed the Shelby decision that eviscerated it as “good news.” As a U.S. Attorney, Senator Sessions was accused of using the power of his office to intimidate activists and impede the civic participation of Black voters in Alabama.

It is our fervent hope that during his hearings this week, in response to our and others’ questions, Senator Sessions will make clear that he is committed to civil rights, to LGBT equality, to the protection of women from violence, and to upholding our country’s history as nation of immigrants. He must commit that, if confirmed as Attorney General, he will enforce and interpret the law to promote justice and equality for all. If, however, Senator Sessions continues down the path that he has carved out over his many decades in public life, we are prepared to oppose his nomination.

Additional Information and Background

Senators have a vital constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent on nominations to the cabinet. To assist them with this work, we have solicited questions from the Reform Movement at www.AskTheNominees.com to be posed at the hearings and shared them with committee members. We hope that these questions will provide senators and all Americans with greater insight into Senator Sessions’ record and views.

Civil Rights: During the 1986 hearings on Sen. Sessions’ nomination to be a federal judge, testimony included racially-charged statements allegedly made by Sen. Sessions on multiple occasions, including those made while he was a U.S. Attorney. Due to these concerns and others raised at the hearing, Sen. Sessions was not confirmed.

Women’s rights: Sen. Sessions voted against the 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark law that provides federal training and resources to protect women from acts of violence. Sen. Sessions also holds staunchly anti-choice views, supporting efforts to qualify babies in utero for SCHIP, ban late-term abortions, and maintain the ban on women in the military receiving abortion services on base.

LGBT equality: Sen. Sessions voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act when it was added as an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Act. The law added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally protected classes in hate crimes prevention and prosecution.

Immigration: As the Senate considered and ultimately passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, Sen. Sessions staked out positions that put him far outside the mainstream, proposing an amendment in committee that would have significantly reduced the number of people admitted on green cards and work visas. His amendment was rejected 17-1. Sen. Sessions has also questioned the notion of birthright citizenship.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.

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