We have said before that the Republican Party of today is not the respectable and reasonable party with character and sense of ethics that it was in the past. The GOP Senate’s handling of the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be attorney general showed it also has lost its soul.
This is the same party that in 1986, when it also was in the majority, had at least two members who voted for their country and not their party and joined Democrats in defeating his nomination to be a federal judge. The votes were based on the same evidence presented this time in his attorney general hearings. This year, however, Judiciary Republicans voted lockstep for their party and not their country.
That evidence showed that Sessions was a racist—once a racist, always a racist, and most racists don’t believe they are. It included statements from people who had worked for him, alleging he described the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP as “Communist-inspired” and “un-American” for forcing “civil rights down the throats of the people. He was said to have told a staffer that he supported the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they smoked marijuana, and that he called a black aide “boy” and warned him against criticizing whites.
That Judiciary Republicans voted unanimously for confirmation was bad enough, but It got worse when the full GOP-controlled Senate took up the nomination, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, one of the weaseliest men ever to serve in the Senate that once included Joseph McCarthy. McConnell knew he had enough votes to confirm Sessions, but, in character, he couldn’t let well-enough alone.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., read from the same evidence of racism presented in 1986, including statements from the late Coretta Scott King and Ted Kennedy, who once held Warren’s seat, McConnell interrupted her and said she was violating an obscure Senate rule that bars a senator from imputing to another senate conduct “conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” Warren persisted and McConnell called for a vote on a formal rebuke, i.e., telling her to sit down and shut up.
McConnell’s predecessor in 186, Bob Dole of Missouri, was capable of doing some mean things, but it is hard to imagine him invoking that rule in the Sessions situation. In fact, McConnell himself has not invoked it in the recent past even when a fellow Republican, Ted Cruz of Texas, called him a liar during public debate on the Senate floor.
Nonetheless, Senate Republicans, who had planned before the day’s debate to invoke the arcane rule if Sessions was criticized (even though he was in the position of giving up his Senate seat to become attorney general), voted lockstep again to rebuke Warren and keep her from participating further in Sessions debate. (Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted with the Republicans when he was clear his vote would not be needed, a sop to his Trump-loving constituents.)
At least Sessions had the decency not to vote for his own confirmation. But, who knows what he would have done were there one fewer Republican in the Senate.
Apparently, today’s Republicans are lockstep okay with not only with Sessions and his beliefs, they have stomachs of iron and will take whatever Trump throws at them. No wonder he was able to steal their party.
It also may be that the party that sides with racists was still upset that the black president’s attorneys general also were black.