POLITICS

Jeff Sessions Demanded Up-Or-Down Vote On Alito

06/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), now the Republican with the most power to delay President Obama's Supreme Court nominees, decried filibusters during the battle to confirm Justice Samuel Alito.

Sessions will take over for defector Arlen Specter as top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position that enables him to drag out debate on potential Supreme Court justices.

No one knows if Sessions plans to do so -- but when Democrats opposed the nomination of Justice Alito, the Republican declared that judges should face only a "majority vote" and that filibusters of court nominees were "very painful."

"Since the founding of the Republic, we have understood that there was a two-thirds supermajority for ratification and advice and consent on treaties and a majority vote for judges. That is what we have done. That is what we have always done. But there was a conscious decision on behalf of the leadership, unfortunately, of the Democratic Party in the last Congress to systematically filibuster some of the best nominees ever submitted to the Senate. It has been very painful." [Senate Floor Speech, 5/23/05]

Sessions also brings to his post some interesting baggage -- he was rejected to an appointment as a U.S. district judge two decades ago over charges of racism. The decisive vote: Arlen Specter.

Two decades ago, the Senate rejected his nomination as a U.S. district judge by President Ronald Reagan over allegations that his career as a lawyer and U.S. attorney in Alabama showed a pattern of being racially insensitive. Ironically, it was Specter who helped seal his defeat by joining with Democratic opposition.

Sessions' dismal record on race -- including a black former assistant U.S. attorney's testimony that Sessions once said he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers" -- was chronicled in a 2002 article in The New Republic.

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