Donald Trump’s choice of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general has mystified many onlookers, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat. On Monday, she let loose on recent comments Sessions, a Republican, made about the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted about groping women. Sessions seemed perplexed about how the behavior Trump described constituted sexual assault. “I think that’s a stretch,” he said. (Later, he clarified that he believes “assault is unacceptable.”)
Gillibrand—who’s advocated against sexual assault, especially in the military—called Sessions’ comments “dangerous” and “offensive.” She said, “[I]f he doesn’t understand the basics of what sexual assault is, I don’t know how he can be attorney general. Because, honestly, that’s one of the attorney general’s jobs.” Gillibrand said she’ll give Sessions a chance to explain himself during his confirmation hearing but expressed skepticism that he’s qualified for the job.
Despite those qualms, Democrats’ efforts to block the confirmation of Sessions and other cabinet appointees will be hamstrung by the party makeup of the chamber and the rule Democrats passed in 2013 that allows presidental appointments to the executive branch to gain approval by a simple Senate majority.
That means stopping the appointment of Sessions, who’s also faced racism accusations in the past, will fall to Republicans. If it’s any indication of the party’s stance on Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week called his current colleague “hardworking,” “principled,” and “forthright.”