Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for Attorney General is January 10. Besides his well-publicized stances on race that previously cost him a federal judgeship appointment, his attitudes about women’s health, protections for women, and the disabled communities, among others, should disqualify him from consideration.
The Attorney General is the head of the Department of Justice and serves as the main legal advisor to the rest of the government, including the President, as well as supervising the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bureau of Prisons and more–it’s quite a powerful position, as details here.
- Desegregation. Sessions has implied that he was a champion of desegregation. The Atlantic, however, could not find a single new desegregation case filed by Jeff Sessions. Sen. Al Franken called him out on this lie.
- KKK. Jeff Sessions claimed credit (several times) for prosecuting a lynching by the KKK in the 1980s and several GOP Senators praising him for it. However, it turns out that Sessions actually wanted to drop the case he bragged about.
- Violence against women. Sessions said several times that he understands violence against women and thinks combating it is very important, but he voted against the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.
- Voting Rights Act. Sessions told senators that he understood “the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters.” But minutes later, he referred to the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive.” He also characterized voter ID laws as “okay” if properly drafted.
Health of Children and Elderly
I found some of Sessions’ positions on children’s health impossible to fathom. He Voted NO on expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and on adding 2 to 4 million children to SCHIP eligibility.
One particularly disturbing vote was for an amendment to remove pregnant women from SCHIP and instead give coverage to the fetus. This is consistent with the growing trend, in some conservative circles, to try to accord embryos more rights than the women who bear them. (See also the Alabama case just reported by Dr. Jen Gunter where the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that an OB-GYN could be sued for malpractice for the miscarriage death of a “previable unborn child,” with Justice Tom Parker stating that “unborn children are protected by Alabama’s wrongful-death statute from the moment life begins at conception.”
Sessions does not appear to support care for the elderly or poor either. He opposed expanding access to Medicare and Medicaid for low-income people. Sessions supported Medicare cuts and limiting expanded enrollment for Medicare Part D. He opposed including prescription drug coverage in 2000. Fiscally conservative, he voted NO on requiring negotiated prescription prices for Medicare part D and on negotiating bulk purchases for Medicare prescription drugs. Yet he voted a cap of $40 billion per year for limited Medicare prescription drug benefit.
People with disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 laid out legal protections against discrimination in housing and employment, among other things. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, mandates access to education and mainstreaming for those with chronic illnesses, need for wheelchairs, blindness or other impairments. Sessions vehemently opposed this, claiming that disabled students were disruptive and violent and were the “single greatest obstacle our educators face.” Understandably, many in the disability communities are concerned that Sessions could not be counted on to protect their rights. Sessions’ positions will likely negatively impact the mental health of these individuals.
Violence against the LGBTQ and minority communities has been rising since the election; depression and suicides have also increased dramatically since then. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act extended federal hate crime protection to victims of crimes “committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability” of the person.
Given that Sessions opposed this bill, saying federal involvement in these hate crimes was unnecessary, civil rights groups are understandably questioning whether Sessions would choose to enforce the law, should be become Attorney General.
Further, Sessions is co-sponsoring the euphemistically named bill, S.1598 — First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which will roll back LGBT rights in housing, employment, healthcare and protections against violence.
With an average of 321,500 rape and sexual assault victims each year in the U.S. (per DOJ) and millions of people traumatized, sexual assault requires serious prosecution and penalties—not the slap on the wrists given by judges like Aaron Perskey and others to young white male athletes.
Sessions opposed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
Many of us heard the 2005 recording of PEOTUS crudely boasting of grabbing women “by the pussy.” Asked about this, Sessions said, “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault… I think that’s a stretch.”
Don’t you think the candidate for Attorney General should know what the definition of sexual assault is?
Sessions further opposed including rape in the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes bill saying, “That could give federal jurisdiction, for the first time in history, to every rape that occurs in America.”
Jeff Sessions strongly opposes abortion. (I cannot call this “pro-life” when these people vote to cut food, health and educational assistance to any life outside the womb.)
Clearly the GOP stance is to undo Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to privacy and control of her body.
After Dr. Barnett Slepian, a physician who provided abortions, was assassinated in 1998, then-Attorney General Janet Reno offered protection to providers and clinics that were under threat. Further, she established the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers, to help protect clinics and their staff.
Given Sessions’ opposition to abortion, will he continue to protect providers, or will he look the other way, selectively enforcing only laws he believes in?
One would think supporting our vets would be uncontroversial, but once again, Jeff Sessions was an outlier. In 2014, with the scandal over serious delays in veterans’ ability to receive medical care, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to ease delays by allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand their staffing, and to allow some vets to access care through private physicians. The bill passed unanimously in the Republican House and 93-3 in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Sessions and two other Republicans, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Bob Corker of Tennessee, voted against the bill, with Sessions calling the assistance “an unlimited entitlement program.”
Whether the new administration likes it or not, we live in a multicultural society.
Sessions is one of the most dangerous of PEOTUS’s cabinet picks, if only because of his stances on healthcare and rights of women, disabled and LGBTQ people—anyone not in his image, as shown above.
As Attorney General, Sessions needs to uphold all the laws and protect the most vulnerable citizens. Is he able and willing to do this? Based on all evidence, almost certainly not.
It is critical that each of us contact our senators urgently and ask them to ask hard questions about his beliefs and past actions and, if their answers are not satisfactory, to ask them to oppose his appointment. You can find your senator’s phone number here.
Remember: The life you save may be your own.