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Sen. Jeff Sessions Wins Senate Committee Approval for Attorney General Post

by Erik Ortiz /  / Updated 
Image: Jeff Sessions leaves his office on Capitol Hill in Washington
Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. leaves his office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31, 2017, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to advance his nomination.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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Tempers flared at a Senate panel hearing Wednesday before members advanced the nomination of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sessions' nomination along party lines, 11-9, sending it to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Sessions is expected to win approval by the GOP-controlled chamber.

But after the committee's vote wrapped up, a protester stood up and shouted, "Shame, shame," at the Republican Senators before security led her out.

Related: Sessions Faces Senate Committee Vote Amid DOJ Turmoil

The second day of hearings also came with a testy exchange between Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas over previous committee testimony.

Franken said he wanted to set the record straight, objecting to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's statements at a hearing earlier this month about Sessions' involvement with civil rights and voting rights cases while he worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama in the 1980s.

Cruz, however, wasn't in the room while Franken spoke Wednesday, which led Cornyn to say he was acting inappropriately.

"We have an important job to do here and it's important that we understand the nominee's record accurately," Franken shot back.

After Tuesday's hearing included fiery rhetoric against Sessions' nomination, Democrats on Wednesday again went after the four-term Alabama senator's record on civil rights, women's health care and his hard-line immigration stance.

They also questioned whether he could be nonpartisan enforcing the federal laws as the nation's top attorney after being an early supporter of Donald Trump's candidacy for president.

At issue has been how Sessions would deal with Trump's controversial immigration ban and handle the president's call for an investigation into an unverified claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote.

Franken said Wednesday that it's "the job of the attorney general to call [the president] out on" proven lies.

"It's important that we know if Sen. Sessions is able or willing to separate fact from fiction and speak truth to power," Franken said before the vote.

Sessions, who is a former member of the Judiciary panel, did not attend the hearings this week.

The urgent need for an attorney general also comes after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Trump on Monday night after she refused to direct the Justice Department to enforce his controversial immigration ban.

While Democratic Senators say they have no confidence that Sessions can act independently from Trump, Republicans say they have faith in the attorney general nominee as a "man of integrity."

"He’s a man of his word. And he'll enforce the law, regardless of whether he would’ve supported passage of that law as a legislator," Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday.

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