The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general in the Trump administration after fierce Democratic opposition to the Alabama Republican.
The 52–47 nearly party-line vote capped weeks of divisive battles over Sessions, an early supporter of President Donald Trump and one of the Senate’s most conservative lawmakers.
Republicans say Sessions has demonstrated over a long career in public service—and two decades in the Senate—that he possesses integrity, honesty, and is committed to justice.
“He’s honest. He’s fair. He’s been a friend to many of us, on both sides of the aisle,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “It’s been tough to watch all this good man has been put through in recent weeks. This is a well-qualified colleague with a deep reverence for the law. He believes strongly in the equal application of it to everyone.”
Sessions won unanimous backing from Senate Republicans, but picked up the support of just one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Democrats laced into Sessions, casting him as too cozy with Trump and too harsh on immigrants.
“Any attorney general must be able to stand firm for the rule of law even against the powerful executive that nominated him or her,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to name a replacement for Sessions as early as Thursday. Bentley has named six finalists for the Senate appointment, including state Attorney General Luther Strange and GOP Rep. Robert Aderholt.
Strange is considered a leading candidate for the job since Bentley interviewed potential replacements for state attorney general, according to people close to the process. However, Bentley’s office has said he has not made a decision.
Wednesday’s vote came amid rising tension between Republicans controlling the chamber over delaying tactics by minority Democrats that have left fewer of Trump’s picks in place than President Barack Obama had eight years ago. Democrats no longer have filibuster power over Cabinet picks, however, after changing Senate rules when they controlled the chamber in 2013.
Next up for the Senate is Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., Trump’s pick for health secretary. A final vote on Price could come late Thursday and success seemed certain.
Democrats have solidly opposed Price, a staunch advocate of repealing Obamacare.
This week has featured overnight, round-the-clock Senate sessions as GOP leaders are work to get Cabinet picks confirmed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.