Senate Judiciary Committee votes to advance Jeff Sessions for attorney general post

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WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 4: U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (2nd-L) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) look on during a news conference on the nomination withdrawal of Miguel Estrada to a federal appeals court September 4, 2003 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The White House withdrew the controversial nomination of Estrada after his confirmation was blocked by Senate Democrats. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning advanced the nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general in a party-line vote.

All 11 Republicans on the panel backed Sessions, an Alabama senator. All nine Democrats opposed him.

Sessions’ nomination was already politically charged, but it has received even more scrutiny in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, his recent firing of acting attorney general Sally Yates, and his calls last week for a voter fraud investigation.

The committee was initially expected to vote Tuesday, but Democrats used a procedural maneuver to delay the committee vote until Wednesday.

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken were the two remaining Democrats left to speak on Wednesday and echoed their colleagues’ views, walking through lengthy lists of their concerns with Sessions’ record and highlighting his close allegiance to Trump.

“Nominees have to meet a higher standard when a White House trafficks in alternative facts,” Whitehouse said.

Franken took direct aim at not only Sessions, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for allegedly misrepresenting Sessions’ record on civil rights and voting rights cases during the confirmation hearing last month. Yet Cruz was not in the room for Franken’s attack and Sen. John Cornyn objected, calling Franken’s behavior “inappropriate.”

“We have an important job to do here and it’s important that we understand the nominee’s record accurately — it’s not our job to shade the record,” Franken said.

The full Senate could vote on the nomination as early as next week.