McConnell on Sessions: Fair in Action. Bound to the Constitution. A Defender of Civil Rights.

‘Senator Sessions is a lawyer’s lawyer. He’s willing to hear the other side of an argument. He’s willing to make the other side of the argument. He’s also willing to be persuaded.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the Senate’s upcoming vote to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General:

“I’d like to say a word about the nominee we’re about to confirm.  We’ve long known our colleague from Alabama as Senator Sessions — and, soon, Attorney General Sessions — but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the distinguished Senator from Alabama was known simply as ‘Buddy.’ The product of a small town called Hybart. The son of a country-store owner. The inheritor of modest beginnings.

“Senator Sessions’ parents grew up in the Depression. They taught their son the value of a dollar and the importance of hard work. If our colleague wasn’t at school or football practice, you were likely to find him at his dad’s store lending a hand to customers. As anyone from a small town can attest, that little store served as far more than a place to buy goods. It was also a local gathering place — a place where people were liable to share their hopes and concerns with you, their dreams too.

“This is where Senator Sessions developed his core values.  It’s where he developed an appreciation for the everyday struggles of working people.  It’s where he learned the importance of listening first, of standing up for what matters, of putting others’ needs before one’s own.  It made him a better person.  It made him a pretty good politician too.

“Senator Sessions is the kind of guy who — with just one conversation — can make you feel as if you’ve known him your entire life.  He’s usually the first to arrive at constituent events and the last to leave.  He’s also made it a priority to travel annually to every county in Alabama, all 67 of them.  His staff will tell you that it’s those trips home when Senator Sessions is truly in his element.  Driving across Alabama, sun-up to sun-down, milkshake in hand — or maybe a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, Heath Bar flavor, thank you very much — that’s Senator Sessions.

“It’s not hard to see why Alabamians keep sending him back to Washington. Last time out, he scooped up a modest 97 percent of the vote.  Part of Senator Sessions’ secret to success is simple enough: He’s just a likable guy.  Our colleague is one of the most humble and most considerate people you’ll meet.  He’s a true Southern gentleman. 

“He’s pretty funny too.  His staff would certainly agree.  They still remember the time he accidentally ran his suit coat through the paper shredder. They saved the evidence too. Let’s hope that one makes its way into the archives.  Sessions alums call this man a mentor. They remain ever-grateful for his focus on their own development. I know they’re going to miss grabbing a burger and fries with him at Johnny Rockets.

“They’re really going to miss his wife Mary as well. Us too.  In Sessions World, Mary Sessions is something of a legend.  She’s been our colleague’s strongest supporter, no matter the task before him.  She’s been a source of encouragement and a friend to all of Team Sessions really.  I doubt they’ll ever forget Mary’s friendship or her famous cream cheese pound cake.

“One thing they won’t soon forget either is Senator Sessions’ intense focus on the office’s letter-writing operation.  Sometimes that meant working weekends with the boss to get the constituent correspondence just right.  There’s no doubt Senator Sessions is very particular about his writing, whether in constituent letters or legal memoranda, and there’s good reason for that.  ‘Words,’ as this lawyer is known to say, ‘have meaning.’ 

“It’s a philosophy that has animated Senator Sessions’ long-time love affair with the law.  He believes in the equal application of the law to each of us, regardless of how we look or where we come from.  It’s a passion for him.  It’s an area of deep importance and principle.  Senator Sessions will stand up for what he believes is right, even when it isn’t always the easiest thing to do. 

“This is a guy who fought for Republican principles long before Alabama became a Red State. He stood up to the George Wallace dynasty as a young man. He stared down the forces of hate as U.S. Attorney and state Attorney General. He’s continued to fight for the equal application of the law too, not to mention a growing economy, a streamlined government, and a strong defense.

“And of course, as anyone who knows him will tell you, Senator Sessions is a lawyer’s lawyer.  He’s willing to hear the other side of an argument.  He’s willing to make the other side of the argument.  He’s also willing to be persuaded.  He’s worked across the aisle with Democrats like the late Senator Ted Kennedy and the Assistant Democratic Leader on issues like prison reform and sentencing reform.  Democrats have praised him as someone who is ‘straightforward and fair’ and ‘wonderful to work with.’  The politics of the moment may have changed but the truth of statements like these endures. 

“Deep down, each of us knows these things remain just as true about Senator Sessions today as they did when our Democratic colleagues praised him.  Fair in action.  Bound to the Constitution. A defender of civil rights.  This is the man we’ve come to know in the Senate. It’s the same man we can expect to see as Attorney General.

“Senator Sessions may be leaving the Senate but there’s plenty this Eagle Scout will be taking with him. That includes the motto he’s lived by — ‘Be Prepared’ — which is so ingrained in our friend that it’s even engraved into the back of the granite nameplate on his desk.  It’s a simple phrase with a simple message, and it seems particularly fitting for our friend today.

“He’s got a big job ahead of him.  I think he’s up to the task though.  He’s tough, but he’s fair.  He’s persistent, but he’s respectful.  He’s a likable guy, a principled colleague, an honest partner — and, while we’re really going to miss him, we also couldn’t be prouder of him. 

“So let us thank Senator Sessions for his many years of service.”

Related Issues: Tributes, Nominations