In an unprecedented move, Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, testified against fellow sitting senator, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, during his cabinet confirmation hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday.
"If one is to be attorney general, they must be willing to continue the hallowed tradition in our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice for civil rights," Booker said. He went on to say Sessions has demonstrated "hostility" towards those values.
Sessions began the confirmation process for the position of AG on Tuesday amid much remonstration in Washington, D.C. Despite his extensive experience defending the Constitution, his nomination has been marred with controversy. Sessions has faced significant resistance from Democrats who decry past allegations of racism and disparage his firmly conservative political views on topics including voting rights, policing and immigration.
Although it is not without precedent for a Senator to vote against the nomination of a fellow Senator, never in the country’s history has a sitting member of the legislative body actively testified against the confirmation of one of his or her peers for a cabinet position.
Three years ago Democrats changed the nomination rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for most Cabinet appointments, meaning Trump’s nominees need just a simple majority to be confirmed. With the threat of a filibuster effectively eliminated, and Republicans holding a secure 52-vote majority within the chamber, most of Trump’s nominations are considered buttoned up: Thus begging the question, what are Booker's true motives?
“Senator Booker is putting partisan politics over legitimate policy concerns with his stunt,” Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) said in a statement to FOXBusiness.com. “This is just the latest desperate attempt by Democrats to derail the inevitable and avoid the reality that Americans rejected their liberal ideas on Election Day.”
Booker may seek to divide Republicans by pointing out fundamental ideological differences that Sessions could bring into the next administration.
“Democrats will drive a wedge between Trump’s views on key issues and those of Sessions,” Howard Schweitzer, managing partner at Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies and former chief ethics officer at the US Export-Import Bank, told FOXBusiness.com.
Still, all of these strategies may point toward a larger, more egocentric goal for Booker. As Democrats look to regroup after their unexpected loss to Trump, Booker’s name has been floated as a potential front-runner to lead the Democratic Party’s presidential bid in 2020. Publicity is likely a big motivator behind Booker’s commitment to thrust his own views of Sessions into the spotlight.
“Sen. Cory Booker will use his testimony to cement support among the Democratic activist/populist wings of the party as he considers a 2020 presidential run,” Schweitzer, who has helped confirm over 20 nominees at the Senate, said.
Regardless of his motives, Booker may want to think about the dangerous precedent he is setting for the future. Republicans are unlikely to forget his testimony when the pendulum swings the other way.