Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave his farewell speech and thanked those who support his nomination and had confidence in him to do the job. He added that the attorney general’s office is a law enforcement office first and foremost.
Yet, the soon-to-be-former senator decided to leave on a collegial note, which he was known for during his time in the U.S. Senate.
Sessions acknowledged that this was a tough election. At times, both sides had deep, systemic philosophical disagreements. The Alabama senator said that he always liked debate, but he always tried to keep my disagreements personal. Still, he noted that tension is built into the system.
Nevertheless, he noted that our nation has room for Republicans and Democrats and said that we need latitude in our relationships.
"Let's agree on what we can agree on," he said.
“Denigrating people who disagree with us is not a healthy trend for our body,” said Sessions, alluding to the Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who referenced the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) words on his failed 1986 federal judgeship nomination in her speech against his nomination. At the time, Kennedy said, "He [Sessions] is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”
Those remarks eventually ended with Warren being asked to take her seat and speak no further on Sessions’ nomination due to her violating Rule 19 of the Senate, which states that no members of the body shall “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
Sessions had the votes; anyone who could count to ten knew that Democrats didn’t have the votes to block his nomination. All of this thanks to Harry Reid nuking the filibuster rules on non-Supreme Court presidential nominees.
Yet, Sessions discussed a nice moment during his career when he worked with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on bill to reduce prison rape. He mentioned how Kennedy told him that he wanted to work on this legislation with him. Sessions said they were able to pass the bill together, despite some reservations from others, including political friends—and that it was a moment of reconciliation between the two men. In a way, it was a classy rebuke to Warren without denigrating her character.
As he closed his remarks, he said, "Reconciliation is important. We ought to do that in this body. We ought to try to fight for our values, and not give an inch--you don't have to back down if you believe you're right and you shouldn't back down, but there are ways that we can get along personally. And I would say that would be my prayer for this body."
In the end, Sessions’ anecdote was a classy way to address the heated debate that had taken place during his nomination. He tendered his letters of resignation to his senate seat to the U.S. Senate and the governor of Alabama.
Sessions’ resignation becomes effective at 11:55 P.M. February 8, 2017.