President Donald Trump’s nomination for attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has been confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 52 to 47.
Jeff Sessions’ confirmation follows a series of divisive hearings during which Democrats attacked his record on civil rights.
Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced after recalling historic allegations of racism against Jeff Sessions.
Jeff Sessions’ nomination was among Donald Trump’s most controversial.
Voting largely followed party lines, with just one Democratic senator – Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voting for Jeff Sessions.
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Jeff Sessions’ Republican colleagues in the chamber applauded him as their majority carried him over the line. He will now take charge of the justice department and its 113,000 employees, including 93 US attorneys.
Addressing the chamber after the vote, Jeff Sessions said: “There is no greater honor than to represent the people of Alabama in the greatest deliberative body in the world.
“I appreciate the full debate we’ve had and thank those afterwards who found sufficient confidence to cast their vote to confirm me as the next attorney general.
“I fully understand the august responsibility of this office.”
However, Jeff Sessions added that “denigrating people who don’t agree with us is not good for our politics”.
During debates ahead of the vote, Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic senators recalled criticism of Jeff Sessions by Martin Luther King’s widow, who opposed his nomination as a federal judge in 1986, alleging he had intimidated black voters.
That nomination was rejected by a US Senate panel amid concerns over allegedly racist comments made by Jeff Sessions, and remarks which appeared to be sympathetic to white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.
David Duke, the former leader of the KKK, welcomed the confirmation, writing on Twitter: “Mr. Trump’s appointment of Bannon, Flynn and Sessions are the first steps in the project of taking America back.”
Elizabeth Warren, who was temporarily banned from the chamber, wrote: “If Jeff Sessions makes even the tiniest attempt to bring his racism, sexism & bigotry into the Justice Department, he’ll hear from all of us.”
Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Senate Republicans on February 7 after reading a letter written by the widow of Martin Luther King Jr.
The 30-year-old letter criticized Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s nomination for attorney general.
Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell said Elizabeth Warren had broken senate rules by impugning the conduct of another senator.
Elizabeth Warren subsequently read Coretta Scott King’s letter live on Facebook.
The incident occurred during a debate in the senate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions. Mitch McConnell’s objection to Elizabeth Warren’s speech was put to a vote and senators voted 49-43 in his favor.
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Elizabeth Warren described what happened in a comment alongside her Facebook video: “During the debate on whether to make Jeff Sessions the next Attorney General, I tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate.
“The letter, from 30 years ago, urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. The Republicans took away my right to read this letter on the floor – so I’m right outside, reading it now.”
Coretta Scott King’s letter alleged that Jeff Sessions was unsuitable for that role because he had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters”. Jeff Sessions’ nomination process has been dogged by allegations that he attempted to suppress black votes when he was an attorney in Alabama.
The objection by Mitch McConnell raised the ire of Democrats and members of the public, many of whom shared the letter on social media using the hashtag #LetLizSpeak.
Bernice King, the daughter of Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, wrote on Twitter: “Thank you @SenWarren for being the soul of the Senate during the #Sessions hearing. #LetCorettaSpeak #LetLizSpeak”
The DNC said in a statement it was a “sad day in America when the words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow are not allowed on the floor of the United States Senate”.
Elizabeth Warren is now barred from speaking on the floor for the remainder of the debate, Mitch McConnell’s office said. The debate is expected to conclude on February 8.
Democrats have boycotted a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee in which Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury secretary, and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President Trump’s nominee for health and human services secretary, would have likely been approved for consideration by the full Senate.
They said they wanted more information about the financial activities of health nominee Tom Price and treasury pick Steven Mnuchin.
A vote on attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions was also postponed.
On January 30, the acting attorney general was sacked for questioning the legality of Donald Trump’s immigration order.
It imposes a temporary travel ban on seven mainly-Muslim countries.
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had been appointed by President Barack Obama.
Finance Committee Democrats told reporters outside the hearing that they were seeking more information about Tom Price’s trading in health company stock.
The Georgia Congressman has been nominated for the post of health and human services secretary in the new administration.
The senators said they were also concerned by reports of financier Steven Mnuchin’s behavior involving foreclosures at his former bank OneWest.
However, Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican committee chair, described the Democrats’ behavior as “posturing and acting like idiots”, AP reported.
A battle also raged in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Jeff Sessions came under heavy criticism.
An early Donald Trump backer, Senator Jeff Sessions has faced racism allegations which overshadowed his confirmation hearings.
Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley began January 31 meeting by saying that neither Jeff Sessions nor any of his current staff, “had a role in formulating or drafting the executive orders” – including the controversial travel ban.
Several Democratic Senators spoke in the committee meeting to say that they intended to vote against the 69-year-old Alabama senator.
Senator Diane Feinstein criticized his role in Donald Trump’s election campaign and his closeness to the new president during it.
“It is very difficult to reconcile for me the independence and objectivity necessary for the position of attorney general with the partisanship this nominee has demonstrated,” she said.
The Democrats’ lengthy speeches extended the hearing into the afternoon, eventually forcing Sen. Chuck Grassley to postpone the vote until February 1.
If Jeff Sessions’ nomination is approved by the judiciary committee, the full Senate – where Republicans hold a 52-48 majority – is expected to vote on it by the end of the week.
The Alabama senator faced two days of tough questioning during his confirmation hearings this month.
One of the most conservative members of the Senate, Jeff Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 after the judiciary committee heard testimony about his remarks on race.
President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Jeff Sessions, a former prosecutor, was turned down for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of alleged racist remarks.
Donald Trump has also nominated Mike Pompeo as CIA director and retired Lt-Gen Michael Flynn has been appointed national security adviser.
His latest picks were praised on Twitter by David Duke, former leader of the white supremacist KKK group.
In a statement, Donald Trump called Jeff Sessions a “world class legal mind”.
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“Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him,” he added.
Jeff Sessions, 69, said in a statement that he “enthusiastically” embraced Donald Trump’s vision for “one America and his commitment to equal justice under law”.
“I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality,” he said.
Jeff Sessions and Gen. Michael Flynn, 57, have been close allies of Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign and share many of his views.
Jeff Sessions opposes any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and was an enthusiastic backer of Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
In 1986, Jeff Sessions was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship, but was rejected because of allegations that he had made racist remarks. He strongly denied the claims.
Gen. Michael Flynn, a vocal critic of the Obama administration since he was ousted as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, agrees with Donald Trump on renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal, strengthening ties with Russia and intensifying the fight against Islamic extremists.
He once tweeted that fear of Muslims was “rational”.
Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, 52, is a supporter of the conservative Tea Party movement. He originally backed Marco Rubio as the Republican candidate but supported Donald Trump after he won the nomination.
Mike Pompeo has also been a fierce critic of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, tweeting on November 17: “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”