Today, Senator Dean Heller (R) cast a critical vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Even as Sessions’ controversial civil rights record reemerged as a national flash point, Heller cast another deciding vote to confirm another of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet Nominees.
Why was this vote so contentious, and what does this mean going forward?
Last night, the Senate reached a breaking point when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) moved to rule out of order Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) for citing a letter from the late Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions’ nomination for a judge position in 1986. When Warren merely quoted King’s letter, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” McConnell prevented her from speaking further.
Following the 49-43 party line vote to uphold McConnell’s out of order ruling, Warren’s fellow Senate Democrats rushed to her aid. That included Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D), who tweeted this statement earlier today.
“Senate Republicans tried to silence @SenWarren. But nevertheless, #ShePersisted. La lucha sigue.”
Cortez Masto joined nearly all other Senate Democrats (save Joe Manchin [D-West Virginia]) in voting against Sessions.
Heller, on the other hand, joined all other Senate Republicans in voting to confirm Sessions in a 52-47 vote.
Throughout the confirmation process, Heller stayed mum on Sessions’ consistent record opposing civil rights. This mirrors Heller’s behavior leading up to his decisive vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Following Sessions’ confirmation vote, Heller retains a 100% record thus far in approving Trump’s Cabinet picks. In contrast, Cortez Masto has opposed five of the eight Trump Administration officials the Senate has confirmed.