5 Big Issues Where Attorney General Jeff Sessions May Have An Immediate Impact

Sessions waits for the beginning of a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Feb. 2, 2017, on Capitol Hill. Alex Wong, Getty Images

President Trump’s newly confirmed attorney general, like much about the current administration, has Americans divided.

Sen. Jeff Sessions’ critics have attacked him as a racist. His supporters reject that characterization saying he will enforce the laws without prejudice. But that debate is merely prologue now that the Alabama senator has been confirmed as America’s 84th attorney general. From here he will be judged by his actions as the country’s top law enforcement official.

Here are five issues where’s Sessions could have an immediate impact:


Trump won’t need to worry about having to coax his new attorney general into enforcing his immigration ban. Sessions has cited a “clear nexus between immigration and terrorism” and said an increase in the admission of Syrian refugees “places the safety and security of the American people at risk.” Sessions strongly favors the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and believes immigrants, whether here legally or not, “must be deported promptly upon their conviction for criminal offenses.” He has been a fierce opponent of any immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. As attorney general, Sessions will lead the Trump administration charge against sanctuary cities.

Voting rights

Jeff Sessions voted for renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, but during the debate over the bill, he expressed reservations about Section 5, which required federal oversight of election laws in nine Southern states to protect minority voters. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to apply Section 5 only to those states. This means the Justice Department has more discretion in investigating voting rights cases. Civil rights advocates have expressed doubts that Sessions will make those cases a priority without that mandatory oversight. Sessions shares Trump’s fears of widespread voter fraud and is an advocate of voter ID laws, which critics say disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters.

Gay rights

Sessions called the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples had the right to marry “unconstitutional” and said he doesn’t know how it “will play out in the years to come,” but during his confirmation hearing, he agreed it was settled law. Sessions also opposed a 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down anti-sodomy laws, supported a Constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act protecting opponents of gay marriage from discrimination lawsuits and strongly opposed extending federal hate crime protections to homosexuals.

As attorney general Sessions will take over the Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” limiting protections for transgender people. Many expect Sessions to withdraw or revise the suit, which could impact whether the case goes before the Supreme Court.

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SOURCE: USA Today OnPolitics – William Cummings