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Murray has received 14,000 letters and emails and over 5,000 calls from people in Washington state, opposing Sessions by a wide margin due to his record on civil rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and more

Murray: Oppose Sessions to “Send a message to [President Trump] who, just weeks into his term, has displayed shocking disdain for the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers”   

ICYMI— Senator Elizabeth Warren silenced on the Senate floor last night by Republicans when speaking against Sessions’ nomination LINK

Murray: “The stakes are too high to make Senator Sessions our next Attorney General”

*VIDEO here*

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, prior  to the final vote on Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor in strong opposition to his nomination. She pointed to a number of reasons she will vote no on Sessions’ confirmation, including his troubled record on civil rights, immigration policy, women’s rights, and so much more, and highlighted the number of people from Washington state who contacted her after the nomination was announced in November. Senator Murray also said that Republicans’ silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) last night on the Senate floor, for reading the words of Coretta Scott King, someone who embodies the fight for justice, freedom, equality, and civil rights in America, was stunning. Senator Murray vowed to not stay silent.

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery prior to the final vote:

“In the middle of a debate about the next Attorney General…we saw the Republican leader selectively use the rules to silence our colleague, a woman Senator, who was reading the words of an African-American woman and historic civil rights leader. Reading the words of someone who embodies the fight for justice, for freedom, for equality, and for civil rights in America. Someone who all of us should be looking to for lessons in these times—not someone whose words should be silenced because she said something people may not enjoy hearing. At a moment when we are engaged in a debate about how best to defend our fellow citizens from discrimination— and fight back against forces that seek to demean others in order to gain power—I was stunned.”

“The day President Trump announced he had picked Senator Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice, the phones in my office lit up. People from across my home state of Washington contacted my office to express their shock, outrage, and fear. The calls came from people who help LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. Groups that have tirelessly advocated for necessary criminal justice reform. Families caught in a broken immigration system. Civil rights advocates and community leaders who have fought for decades to create a more just society. Advocates and non-profits trying to help women escape domestic violence. The list goes on.”

“In the weeks and months since the President made his choice for Attorney General known, those concerns haven’t died down. In fact, they’ve only gotten louder and more urgent as the public gets a better look at Senator Sessions’ long record, what he stands for, and where he wants to take this country. I share their concerns-- and it’s why I will oppose Senator Sessions’ nomination to be Attorney General.  And I urge my colleagues to join me to reject this nomination and send a message to the new president about the rule of law in this country”

“The American people need an Attorney General who continues to make the fight against racism, discrimination, and hate crimes a core part of the Department’s mission. We know Senator Sessions is not the person for that job. More than thirty years ago, he couldn’t even pass muster in a Republican-majority Senate. During his confirmation hearing, senators cited his racially-charged comments and his shameful record on civil rights as a U.S. Attorney as reasons they could not support him. As my late colleague, Ted Kennedy, said at the time, “It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. federal judge.””

“This nominee’s track record of trying to undermine women’s constitutionally-protected reproductive rights is horrifying, and should scare every woman in this country. And I’ve heard from so many members of the LGTBQ community who are terrified that Senator Sessions would be tasked with protecting their rights. His votes against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and expanding hate crimes definitions to include LGBTQ Americans confirm those fears. This alone has to give my colleagues pause. When so many Americans—our friends, our family members, our coworkers-- fear that their government will look the other way as they endure violence, discrimination, and marginalization just because of who they love and how they live—we must fight back with everything we’ve got.

“Senator Sessions is not the Attorney General this country needs. I urge members of the Senate to stand up for the Constitution, to stand with your fellow Americans. The stakes are too high to make Senator Sessions our next Attorney General. I urge you to join me in voting against this nomination. Now, more than ever, we need an Attorney General who will be independent and willing to stand up to the President Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional actions, whenever they happen. The last thing this country needs is a rubber stamp to validate this Administration’s illegal actions. “

Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared for delivery before the final vote:

I stand here today to give a voice to the thousands of people who have contacted me in recent weeks-- urging me to vote no on this nomination. But first, I need to express my frustration and outrage about what happened right here on the floor last night.

In the middle of a debate about the next Attorney General, someone whose job it will be to defend the rights of all Americans, to defend people from discrimination, inequity, and unfairness, to defend women, to defend people of color, to defend all those who too often are told to sit down, stand down, and be quiet - we saw the Republican leader selectively use the rules to silence our colleague, a woman Senator, who was reading the words of an African-American woman and historic civil rights leader.

Reading the words of someone who embodies the fight for justice, for freedom, for equality, and for civil rights in America. Someone who all of us should be looking to for lessons in these times—not someone whose words should be silenced because she said something people may not enjoy hearing. At a moment when we are engaged in a debate about how best to defend our fellow citizens from discrimination— and fight back against forces that seek to demean others in order to gain power—I was stunned.

I respect the decorum that the Senate strives to maintain. But there are times when you cannot stay silent. This is one of those times. We will not be silent. So I stand with my friend, the Senator from Massachusetts. I stand with the words of the late Coretta Scott King. I stand with the many people who have contacted me about this nominee we are debating today.

Because I can tell you, the day President Trump announced he had picked Senator Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice, the phones in my office lit up. People from across my home state of Washington contacted my office to express their shock, outrage, and fear. The calls came from people who help LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. Groups that have tirelessly advocated for necessary criminal justice reform. Families caught in a broken immigration system. Civil rights advocates and community leaders who have fought for decades to create a more just society. Advocates and non-profits trying to help women escape domestic violence. The list goes on.

That was in November. And in the weeks and months since the President made his choice for Attorney General known, those concerns haven’t died down. In fact, they’ve only gotten louder and more urgent as the public gets a better look at Senator Sessions’ long record, what he stands for, and where he wants to take this country. I share their concerns-- and it’s why I will oppose Senator Sessions’ nomination to be Attorney General.  And I urge my colleagues to join me to reject this nomination and send a message to the new president about the rule of law in this country.

Send a message to someone who came into office showing blatant disregard for our traditions of transparency—traditions that tell us the president has a duty to put the needs of the American people before the needs of his bank account. Send a message to someone who, just weeks into his term, has displayed shocking disdain for the U.S. Constitution and the separation of powers. The same president who fired an acting Attorney General because she refused to ignore the law to approve his hateful and unconstitutional executive order barring refugees. The same president who ridiculed a well-respected federal judge in Seattle – a George W. Bush appointee – because the judge didn’t rule the way he wanted.

The United States Attorney General is often the last line of defense for our Constitution within an Administration, and they need to be the first to stand up to our president when our president is wrong. Senator Jeff Sessions is not that kind of nominee. The people of this country expect and deserve an Attorney General who will protect their civil and constitutional rights, and liberties. They deserve someone committed to the principles of inclusiveness and justice—someone who will fiercely defend the rights of Americans– all Americans– to be treated equally under the law.

The American people need an Attorney General who continues to make the fight against racism, discrimination, and hate crimes a core part of the Department’s mission. We know Senator Sessions is not the person for that job. More than thirty years ago, he couldn’t even pass muster in a Republican-majority Senate. During his confirmation hearing, senators cited his racially-charged comments and his shameful record on civil rights as a U.S. Attorney as reasons they could not support him. As my late colleague, Ted Kennedy, said at the time, “It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. federal judge.”

I ask my colleagues who are inclined to support his nomination today – what has changed? Because I have served alongside Senator Sessions for years. I know his record all too well. And like my constituents who started sounding the alarm in November, I’m deeply concerned by his agenda that would take our country backward. Senator Sessions has dismissed one of our bedrock civil rights laws—the Voting Rights Act—as “intrusive”— while pushing restrictive voter ID laws and fueling conspiracy theories about voter fraud. I watched as he refused to work with a bipartisan majority of the Senate on immigration reform—and instead pushed extreme policies that would punish the most vulnerable members of our communities. That included DREAMers across the country who have never known another home besides America.

His personal passion on this issue and his years of advocacy against common-sense immigration policies cause me great concern about whether he would use the Department of Justice to pursue his extreme, anti-immigration agenda. On criminal justice reform, he beat back efforts from within his own party to address the exploding rates of incarceration in this country.

The injustice of these laws falls disproportionately on communities of color. Time and again, he has defended laws that favor throwing non-violent offenders in jail rather than working to rehabilitate them-- even though it has been consistently proven that prison is not a means of rehabilitation. This nominee’s views on criminal justice reform are so out of the mainstream, his position is even at odds with the Koch Brothers. 

At the very time our nation engages in a critically important debate about ensuring equal treatment under the law— as we continue the struggle to make sure equality shines through our education system, our justice system, our economy, and our country—Senator Sessions remains dismissive of the very tools our Justice Department must use to move us forward.

When I joined so many of my colleagues in the Senate to re-authorize and improve the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act to protect women across this country-- Senator Sessions worked against us to tear it apart. As someone who has sat face-to-face with survivors of domestic violence and fought to increase protections for those dealing with sexual assault— I can see why people would question whether Senator Sessions has any intention of enforcing the laws that protect them. Because I wonder that myself.

This nominee’s track record of trying to undermine women’s constitutionally-protected reproductive rights is horrifying, and should scare every woman in this country. And I’ve heard from so many members of the LGTBQ community who are terrified that Senator Sessions would be tasked with protecting their rights. His votes against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and expanding hate crimes definitions to include LGBTQ Americans confirm those fears. This alone has to give my colleagues pause. 

When so many Americans—our friends, our family members, our coworkers-- fear that their government will look the other way as they endure violence, discrimination, and marginalization just because of who they love and how they live—we must fight back with everything we’ve got. When this president attacks the independence of our judges– judges who have declared the obvious, that the Muslim Ban Executive Order is unconstitutional– we cannot put the person who Steve Bannon calls-- “the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter” of the president’s agenda-- at the head of the Department of Justice. This is not who we are.

And Senator Sessions is not the Attorney General this country needs. I urge members of the Senate to stand up for the Constitution, to stand with your fellow Americans. The stakes are too high to make Senator Sessions our next Attorney General. I urge you to join me in voting against this nomination. Now, more than ever, we need an Attorney General who will be independent and willing to stand up to the President Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional actions, whenever they happen. The last thing this country needs is a rubber stamp to validate this Administration’s illegal actions.

Thank you, I yield the floor.

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