NEW YORK (JTA) — The Reform movement said it “strongly opposes” the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, a day after the Senate concluded his confirmation hearings.
“Senator Sessions’ testimony failed to signal a clear departure from his longstanding record of insufficient commitment to voting rights, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ equality, women’s rights, immigration reform and church-state separation,” said a statement Thursday by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center, who said he was speaking on behalf of all the movement’s arms.
The statement continued: “Senator Sessions’ record and testimony causes us to believe that, as Attorney General, he would stand in the way of the Justice Department’s mandate to enforce and protect these fundamental rights.”
The Reform movement cited several pieces of legislation in line with its values, which it said were threatened by Sessions, including the Voting Rights Act, and measures to prevent violence against women and hate crimes.
The Anti-Defamation League has stopped short of opposing Sessions’ nomination, but this week sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee outlining strong disagreements the organization has with Sessions’ past statements and actions, including over hate crimes, immigration, abortion rights, church-state separations, LGBT rights and criminal justice reform.
The 15-page letter urged the committee to “closely examine Senator Sessions’ views on the role of the Attorney General and the Justice Department in interpreting and enforcing provisions in the United States Constitution and federal law that guarantee and protect fundamental civil rights and individual liberties.”
Also Tuesday, the American Jewish Committee urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to probe Sessions on a number of issues, including the protection of religious communities, responses to anti-Semitism, deterrence of terrorism, civil rights and voting rights, according to a statement. The nonpartisan group also noted that it “does not endorse or oppose the confirmation of particular nominees.”
A number of liberal groups, including Bend the Arc, the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International, had previously declared their opposition to the Sessions nomination.
The three groups and a number of regional NCJW chapters joined a letter Monday to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging members not to confirm Sessions. The letter, initiated by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, accrued signatures from 650 national and local groups.
Sessions’ confirmation hearing ended Wednesday, but the panel won’t vote on his appointment until after Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. To be confirmed, he needs 51 votes in Senate, which now has 52 Republican members.