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.”
CIA chief nominee John Brennan will face a grilling soon at a Senate confirmation hearing.
The session comes as lawmakers were to receive secret papers setting out the rationale for drone strikes on Americans working with al-Qaeda abroad.
Members of President Barack Obama’s own Democratic party are concerned about John Brennan’s role in US drone policy.
He was a top CIA official under President George W. Bush.
John Brennan, 57, is also likely to face questions about his position on harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, that were used by the CIA while he was a senior official there.
Correspondents say that despite these concerns there has been no suggestion that members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence object to John Brennan’s nomination.
He is expected to be confirmed by the panel and later by the full Senate.
A vote to confirm former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defence has been delayed amid opposition from some member of his own party.
John Brennan could face tough questions from Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the panel, who has vowed to press the nominee on drones.
Senator Wyden told MSNBC: “To make very clear, I am going to push for more declassification of these key kinds of [drone] programmes, and I think we can do that consistent with national security.”
CIA chief nominee John Brennan will face a grilling soon at a Senate confirmation hearing
On the eve of Thursday’s hearing, the committee released John Brennan’s answers to some preliminary questions.
John Brennan said he “had significant concerns and personal objections” about extreme interrogation techniques used by the CIA, adding he was “aware of the program but did not play a role in its creation, execution, or oversight”.
On drones, John Brennan said no new legislation was necessary for the US to conduct operations against al-Qaeda anywhere in the world.
He said individuals were targeted for killing “on a case-by-case basis through a coordinated interagency process” involving intelligence, military, diplomatic and other agencies.
John Brennan also acknowledged “instances when, regrettably and despite our best efforts, civilians have been killed”.
“It is exceedingly rare, and much rarer than many allege,” he added.
John Brennan’s hearing comes a day after the Department of Justice sent Congress documents laying out the legal rationale for targeting and killing US citizens who are suspected of working with terror groups.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate committee, said: “It is critical for the committee’s oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations.”
The justice department acted after NBC News published a leaked internal memo explaining some of the legal arguments.
John Brennan is believed to have been deeply involved.
The CIA has carried out drone strikes in Yemen, where three American citizens linked to al-Qaeda have been killed: Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old-son and Samir Khan.
Recent opinion polls have suggested that the US public generally supports the drone programme, especially when compared with the possibility of ground assault.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has opposed the appointment of Chuck Hagel as defence secretary, said: “The drone programme to me is a logical use of how you deal with an enemy combatant.”
John Brennan was considered for the top post at the intelligence agency in 2008.
But he withdrew his name from consideration amid protests over public statements he made on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, which are viewed by many as torture.