Oh, Irony! Oh, Chutzpah! Sen. Sessions Weighs in on High Court Pick

In one of those unintentionally hilarious flukes on Capitol Hill, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee and hence the designated quarterback of the GOP response to President Obama’s upcoming Supreme Court nomination. Sessions warned this morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a Republican filibuster is possible if Obama nominates someone who is “outside the mainstream.” Sessions will obviously play a key role in deciding what constitutes the mainstream.

What’s amusing is that Sessions himself was rejected by the Judiciary Committee for a federal district judgeship back in 1986 because his own views and record were so far outside the mainstream. For the committee to reject a president’s nominee was fairly unusual at the time. For a Republican-controlled committee to reject Ronald Reagan’s nominee was a front-page shocker.

One of the best quick summaries of Sessions’ quirks is this one from Wikipedia:

Sessions was in his best form last year, during Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. He attacked her for her association with the “radical” Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, fearing her personal and ethnic loyalties would affect her rulings. In the same hearings he also chastised her for voting differently from another judge of Puerto Rican judge origin, the very conservative Jose Cabranes, on a case where her vote would have given Cabranes a majority.

Sessions apparently hasn’t lost any of his confidence that he knows what’s on America’s mind and what isn’t. Explaining this morning what might provoke a filibuster, he said:

Here’s a bit of history that compounds the fortuitous synchronicity of the upcoming fight: Sessions became the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee one year ago, after incumbent Arlen Specter, the only Jewish Republican in the Senate, became a Democrat. Back in 1986, Specter was one of the two Republicans (with Charles Mathias of Maryland) to vote against confirming Sessions for the federal bench. There were 10 Republicans and eight Democrats on the committee; the vote to reject Sessios was 10-8.

Specter then switched sides (not for the last time) and voted to send Sessions’ nomination to the Senate floor, despite the committee’s failure to recommend. That vote was 9-9.

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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Oh, Irony! Oh, Chutzpah! Sen. Sessions Weighs in on High Court Pick

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