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The spotlight shines on Jeff Sessions

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
Alabama’s junior senator Jeff Sessions, named by Senate Republicans to the “Ranking Member” position on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has garnered a share of the Washington spotlight recently, mainly because of the upcoming confirmation hearings for federal judges and U. S. attorneys and the widely-held perception that GOP senators will attempt to obfuscate the process.
Sessions public comments, however, have been conciliatory, almost to the point of sounding sugar coated, following his recent meeting with the President. He has even said he would be receptive to nominees who support abortion rights and even an African American, if nominated. “Could I support a pro-abortion nominee? The answer is yes,” Sessions said in an interview on C-SPAN. His concern, he says, is that nominees shouldn’t allow their personal view on abortion to interfere with their legal decisions. He also doesn’t favor a “filibuster” as a tactic to block appointments.
Sessions said he had no issue if Obama considers gender or ethnic diversity in his choices, but said that the President should primarily examine whether the nominees could be valuable to the court. “I think the primary thing is that nominees show fidelity to the law and that they not have any agendas, personal, social, religious or otherwise that would keep them for being faithful to the legal system of America,” Sessions says.
Those are the most inspiring words I have heard from Sen. Sessions since he was elected to the U. S. Senate. Did Obama give him a massage or has some other magic fingering happened in Washington? I prefer the idea of some other magic, in the form of the President, or his surrogates at the Department of Justice, agreeing that Sen. Session’s favorite U. S. Attorney in Alabama, Alice Martin of the Northern District, could remain in office until her successor is confirmed. Sessions, I am told, has campaigned for Martin to remain in office for a year, pending the confirmation of her successor. Martin is in the process of a grand jury probe of Atty. Gen. Troy King and no one with whom I have talked can understand why Sessions would want Martin to stay and this investigation to continue unless he thinks it will aid King’s announced primary opponent, Luther Strange of Mt. Brook.
The name of Martin’s potential successor, Joyce Vance, the head of her office’s appellate division, was sent to the Senate for confirmation last week by the President. My sources close to the Justice Department tell me that Sessions implied to the Obama administration that its decision on whether to let Martin stay on beyond her term would have a big impact on his continued positive reception to their nominees who must be approved by the Judiciary Committee.
I was also told that Martin’s other mentor Sen. Richard Shelby is also in on this effort to keep her on board, but more passively than Sessions. My sources say that Shelby had told Martin some time back that she was a no go for retention because she had far too many skeletons in the closet to risk a Senate review. She remains under scrutiny by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
So the quid pro quo has obviously been worked out since the Obama Administration seems to have agreed to allow Martin to remain in office until Vance is confirmed. Martin virtually confirmed the agreement with her comment on Vance’s nomination, saying she had “agreed” to remain in office until the Senate confirms Vance…which will likely take several months.
I’m certain Atty. Gen. King is not amused by these events.
Byrne, Bentley and James
Look for Bradley Byrne, the two-year college chancellor, to launch his gubernatorial campaign in two weeks with a statewide fly-around. Byrne, a Republican from Montrose, has been eyeing a run more seriously following the decision by Troy University President Jack Hawkins to drop out of the race. He will join Tim James and State Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
Obama 50/50 in Alabama
Survey USA’s polling in Alabama gives Barack Obama a 48 percent approval rate, but 49 percent disapprove of the job he is doing, one of a very few states where he does not poll well over 50 percent. That doesn’t bode well for the candidacy of Congressman Artur Davis, who claims a close relationship with the President and is a candidate for governor in the Democratic primary. The same poll shows Gov. Bob Riley’s approval numbers have dropped to 54 percent, about ten points.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: