From the last Morning Jolt of the week…
Go Figure, Jeff Sessions Looks Likely to Be Confirmed This Month
It was easily missed, but this more or less wraps up the confirmation for Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General: West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin reaffirmed that he will vote for Sessions.
Fifty-two Republicans, plus Manchin, means Sessions has 53 votes. Traditionally, senators nominated to the cabinet don’t vote for themselves; they vote “present.” Take away Sessions and the vote looks like 52 in favor, 47 against, one present.
So if three Republican senators flipped, the vote would be 49 in favor, 50 against, 1 present. Under that scenario, maybe Sessions wouldn’t vote present, and would vote for himself. (No law bars this.) In a 50-50 split, Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie. Sessions would be confirmed, 51 votes in favor, 50 votes opposed.
So Sessions opponents really need four Republicans to oppose his confirmation. So far, no Republican has indicated they will vote against him. When the most high-profile opposition to him comes from the incoherent shouting of Code Pink and the camera-hugging grand-standing of Cory Booker, how do you think most Senate Republicans are going to vote?
There was a small window of opportunity for Sessions foes, but that would have required Senate Democrats to make an argument against the Alabama senator that appealed to the worldview of Senate Republicans. Sessions is a big fan of civil forfeiture, a process that allows law enforcement to take private property that more than a few conservatives contend is widely abused and has become “a cash cow for state and local police and prosecutors.” His support for drug prohibition isn’t by itself a glaring problem, but quite a few Republicans aren’t sure the War on Drugs is working out the way it was supposed to, and Sessions doesn’t appear to have doubted its effectiveness one bit. A lot of conservatives are taking a long look at sentencing reform, wondering if our prisons and jails are just taking the bad and making them worse. Sessions is wary at best about these efforts, fearing they will release violent offenders back on the streets, and he blocked legislative efforts last year.
Had the argument against Sessions focused primarily on those areas, maybe you could have shaken loose a few Republican senators. But hey, Code Pink wants to shout, so… go ahead, guys. Have at it.