Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., took the 2-4 a.m. shift on the Senate floor early Wednesday as Democrats protested the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be the nation’s next attorney general, but a majority of colleagues confirmed President Trump’s choice later in the day.
Much of the debate has focused on a rare rebuke of Sen. Elizabeth Warren for reading on the Senate floor a 1986 letter from Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow, Coretta Scott King, critical of Sessions.
Merkley, who read a portion of King's letter on the Senate floor, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday that claiming the letter was irrelevant to Sessions' nomination as the nation's top law enforcer was "an absurd argument to make."
Merkley also released the following statement about his opposition:
"In 1986, Coretta Scott King wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Jeff Sessions 'has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.' Based on her testimony and the testimony of others, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination to be a federal judge.
"Thirty-one years later, Jeff Sessions is now before the Senate again, nominated by the President to the top law enforcement officer in the land. We need an Attorney General who will be a passionate and dedicated advocate for what our pledge of allegiance famously describes as 'liberty and justice for all.'
"In his years in the Senate, Jeff Sessions has been a vehement opponent of LGBTQ rights, opposing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. And he has continued to advocate for voter suppression, despite the fact that our nation is founded on voter empowerment, even cheering the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act as 'good news for the South.'
"Jeff Sessions' record is not that of a man who will champion 'liberty and justice for all,' and that is why I oppose his nomination to this key post."