Political News

The Latest: Senate hearing to feature Booker vs. Sessions

Posted January 9

— The Latest on Congress (all times EST):

9:50 p.m.

The Senate showdown over Donald Trump's pick of Sen. Jeff Sessions to become attorney general will take a dramatic twist this week when a fellow senator and two congressmen testify against him.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker says he will testify Wednesday against the Alabama Republican. Democrats have expressed concern about Sessions' civil rights record, and Booker is one of just three black senators.

Booker calls his opposition "a call to conscience."

It is rare for a sitting senator to testify against a colleague picked for a Cabinet post.

Booker's office says civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, will testify against Sessions. Booker says Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, will also be appearing against Sessions.

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5 p.m.

Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay plans to return a painting to its Capitol Hill display after a colleague took offense and removed it because it shows a pig in a police uniform aiming a gun at African-American protesters.

The painting by a high school student in Clay's district was inspired by the shooting and protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California removed the painting Friday and returned it to Clay's office.

A media advisory says the rehanging of the painting Tuesday is a proud statement in defense of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The advisory says the painting had been on display for months and was viewed peacefully by thousands of congressional staffers and the public before it was removed "without permission or proper authority."

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4 p.m.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin says President-elect Donald Trump has assured him he will help fight to secure long-term benefits for retired miners who face the loss of health care benefits this spring.

Manchin, a Democrat who was considered for a role in Trump's Cabinet, says Trump reassured him about miners' benefits in a phone call Monday.

Manchin led an effort last month to renew the benefits for at least a year — and even threatened a partial government shutdown if demands were not met — but GOP leaders instead offered a four-month extension. The benefits are set to expire at the end of April.

Manchin says he looks forward to working with Trump and members of Congress to continue benefits for thousands of retired miners and their families.

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3:35 p.m.

The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee says likely Russian interference in the presidential election is "totally unacceptable," but says his committee will defer to other congressional panels to investigate alleged hacking and other activities.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said Monday that the investigation would likely require testimony and documents from the National Security Agency, the CIA and other agencies and is properly the domain of the House Intelligence panel.

Chaffetz told reporters he won't "shy away" from looking at possible conflicts involving President-elect Donald Trump, but will wait until Trump takes office before beginning any review.

Chaffetz says he had no opinion on whether Trump's expected appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a White House role as a senior adviser could conflict with anti-nepotism laws.

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3:05 p.m.

Top Senate Democrat Charles Schumer says Democrats will hold Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees to the same standards that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanded of President Barack Obama's picks eight years ago.

The New York Democrat says that means Democrats won't allow immediate Senate votes unless Trump's choices pass FBI background checks, clear an ethics review, and submit a detailed financial disclosure statement.

Those were demands made eight years ago by McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. The New York Democrat says he'll send an exact copy right back to McConnell, who on Sunday accused Democrats of "little procedural complaints" after they lodged protests that Republicans are holding hearings before key paperwork has been submitted and are packing hearings together to limit Democratic participation.

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1:15 p.m.

The father of a Muslim American soldier killed during combat in Iraq is urging senators to reject President-elect Donald Trump's choice for attorney general.

Khizr M. Khan (KY'-zur M. kahn) says in a letter Monday to leaders of the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee that Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, won't protect the "sacred right" of Americans to vote.

Khan is raising an episode from nearly 30 years ago when Sessions confronted and denied allegations that he'd made racist comments as a U.S. attorney under President Ronald Reagan. The Judiciary Committee denied Sessions a federal judgeship in 1986, and civil rights advocates have since raised objections to his positions on voting rights, hate crime prosecutions and immigration.

"Sadly, Mr. Sessions has not demonstrated a greater understanding that the right to vote should transcend partisan interests," Khan says.

Khan's speech about his son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, at the Democratic National Convention criticized the anti-Muslim rhetoric of then-Republican nominee Trump.

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1 p.m.

Senate Democrats plan an evening talk-a-thon from the chamber's floor to attack Republicans' plans for eviscerating President Barack Obama's health care law.

Monday's speeches come with the expectation that the Senate will hold a final vote this week on a budget that would prevent Democrats from using a filibuster to block a future bill dismantling Obama's law.

Led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Democrats say the GOP repeal effort will "make America sick again." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans say Obama's law is already failing.

Republicans haven't written a plan for replacing the health care law. Some GOP senators say they don't want to repeal the law until replacement legislation is ready, which could takes months or years.

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