Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) hopes to hold confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Grassley’s desire to expedite confirmation for Sessions, whose selection has prompted concern due to his hostility towards civil rights laws, was news to the senator who will be the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who told TPM Tuesday she was unaware of the plan.
Sessions met with Grassley earlier Tuesday morning, where Grassley announced his plans to push through his confirmation quickly.
“Historically, at least in the case of [John] Ashcroft and in the case of [Eric] Holder, we’ve had the hearings prior to the inauguration,” Grassley told reporters, according to The Hill. “And it would be my intention to move ahead in that procedure that we did with Ashcroft and with Holder.”
The pressure is on Democrats to fight Sessions’ ascent to the top of the Justice Department, which is responsible for enforcing civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act that Sessions has criticized in the past. When Sessions, then a U.S. attorney, was appointed to a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan in the mid-1980s, his nomination was rejected after other attorneys testified that he’d made racist remarks and derided civil rights groups.
Asked about Grassley’s plans to hold Sessions’ confirmation hearings before Trump’s inauguration, Feinstein told TPM she had not heard that was his intention.
“Well here is the thing. The due diligence has to get done,” said Feinstein, who will takeover as the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee next year. “I mean, he has been in the Senate for 20 years, so the questionnaire has to get prepared.”
Presidential nominees that are confirmed by the Judiciary Committee often fill out a questionnaires for committee members to consider.
“I will call Senator Grassley,” Feinstein said.
Grassley’s announcement comes after Senate Democrats on the committee sent him a letter Monday asking that he “ensure that hearings on this important nomination be fair and thorough.”
“Senator Sessions has developed an extensive record on important issues within this Committee’s jurisdiction, and over which he would yield significant power as Attorney General,” the letter said. “The Committee must devote adequate time to examining those issues.”
Update: This story has been updated to include a letter from Judiciary Committee Democrats to Chairman Grassley.