**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on the Senate floor this morning to urge her colleagues to oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General.
Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise today to oppose the nomination of Senator Sessions for Attorney General.
And I’d like to preface my remarks with just a statement in recognition of the outpouring I’ve received from my state, from constituents.
I have letters, I have postcards sent – some with the Statue of Liberty – I have letters from every corner of my state, passionately writing about their views on President Trump’s nominations, particularly Senator Sessions.
I’d like to read one letter because I think it really summarizes the views of so many New Yorkers.
This constituent writes,
“As your constituent and as a Reform Jew, I strongly urge you to oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
“As the top law enforcement official in the country, the Attorney General has substantial power over the administration of key legislation that advances the fundamental rights of all people, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, national origin. Senator Sessions’s firmly established record of opposition to the protection and the advancement of voting rights, LGBTQ equality, women’s rights, immigration reform, and religious freedom suggest that he would not fulfill the Department of Justice’s mandate to provide equal protection under the law for all people.”
The letter goes on to talk about his votes, particularly against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, when it was added as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act.
He also talks about voting against the Violence Against Women Act.
“In the words of Leviticus 19:18, love thy neighbor as yourself. Guide us to stand up against bias, prejudice, and discrimination. We cannot place the responsibility of leading the Department of Justice, the federal agency directly responsible for ensuring equal protection, in the hands of someone whose record demonstrates insufficient commitment to key civil rights protections.
“I urge you to oppose Senator Sessions.”
Our country, Mr. President, desperately needs an Attorney General who will reject discrimination in all forms.
We need an Attorney General who will defend our civil rights and human rights – with no exceptions.
We need an Attorney General who will not be afraid to challenge the President if an order is illegal or unconstitutional.
Senator Sessions has not made it clear that he would use his power as Attorney General to stand up for the voiceless and the oppressed, or to stand up to the President when he’s wrong.
Already, in just a few weeks of this new administration, President Trump has begun to test the strength and limits of our Constitution.
He has challenged the separation of powers. He has lashed out against the free press. He has singled out individual religions – and even individual judges.
Now more than ever, we need an Attorney General whose commitment to defending our Constitution goes far beyond his commitment to any one particular President or one particular party.
Would Senator Sessions challenge the President when he needs to be challenged?
During the presidential campaign, when the tape was revealed of then-Candidate Trump bragging about groping a woman against her will, Senator Sessions said he thought it was a “stretch” to call it sexual assault.
He said, “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault.”
We need an Attorney General who knows very clearly what sexual assault is – and who cares enough to prosecute it.
Senator Sessions has voted to make our gun background checks system even weaker, and voted against limits on high-capacity magazines, and he opposed legislation to make interstate gun trafficking a federal crime.
We need an Attorney General who will stand up for victims of gun violence and their families.
Throughout his career in the Senate, Senator Sessions has voted against or spoken out against important legislation, so important to my constituents – the Violence Against Women Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Voting Rights Act.
These are important pieces of legislation that protect individuals from discrimination.
We need an Attorney General who will defend the rights of women, who will defend the rights of our communities of color, who will defend the rights of the LGBT community, who will defend the rights of Muslim Americans and all minorities.
We need an Attorney General who will fight every day for equal justice and equal protection under our laws.
Senator Sessions has no record of doing that, and I have no reason to believe that he will do that as Attorney General
So I oppose Senator Sessions’s nomination as Attorney General, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.