On Wednesday, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker broke with tradition — and in doing so, made history — by testifying against a fellow sitting senator in a confirmation hearing. The bold act followed the introductory installment of controversial Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions’ hearing, which was interrupted by anti-racism protesters in KKK costumes. This was a clear nod to Sessions’ checkered civil rights history both as a rejected federal judge nominee and as Alabama attorney general.
Booker’s office noted his unprecedented act ahead of the hearing, and he effectively used his minutes at the microphone. In doing so, he lambasted Sessions’ civil rights record while also noting the difficult decision to do so:
“I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience … This is one of the more consequential appointments in American history right now given the state of a lot of our challenges we have with our policing, a lot of challenges we have with race relations, gay and lesbian relations.
Booker then called out Sessions’ “failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans.” And he did not mince words: “If confirmed, Sen. Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women but his record indicates that he won’t.” Finally, Booker dropped one of his soon-to-be classic inspirational metaphors that’s already becoming a social media hit: “The arc of the moral universe does not just naturally curve toward justice; we must bend it.”
The senator ended by recognizing the Congressional Black Caucus members sitting behind him, and he asked his colleagues in the Senate to join him in refusing to confirm Sessions’ appointment. This short but powerful speech followed up on Bookers’ prior statements to MSNBC, in which he accused Sessions of blocking “key ideals of the Voting Rights Act” and attempting to block criminal justice reform. Booker concluded, “He has a posture and a positioning that I think represent a real danger to our country.”
Sessions is expected to receive enough Senate approval and ascend to the attorney general position, but Booker’s words create a new precedent and should position him well with progressives in … about four years.