Democratic Senators Kamala Harris of California and New Jersey’s Cory Booker were appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, the The Hill reported. As the first African-American member of the committee since the 1990s, there are a few pressing issues for them to address.
Booker vowed to serve as a “check and balance” on President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “The Trump administration has repeatedly demonstrated its hostility to the ideals of civil rights and equal justice for all,” he added.
Among its several tasks, the Judiciary Committee provides oversight of the Department of Justice and the agencies that report to the department, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The members also consider the president’s judicial nominees. Harris is now the second African-American woman to sit on the committee after former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, a Democrat from Illinois. Booker is the first Black man to serve on the powerful panel.
Here are a few issues that Booker and Harris could give voice to on the committee:
1. Oppose Thomas Farr’s judicial nomination
Trump nominated Thomas Farr for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. His nomination has drawn widespread criticism. He has a long history of defending laws that weaken voting rights for African Americans and was part of a scheme by North Carolina’s former GOP Sen. Jesse Helms to intimidate Black voters.
2. Restore federal oversight of police reform
Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice investigated police departments and used its leverage to reach agreements to reform departments that had patterns of racially biased policing. Sessions has directed his department in a memo to review those agreements to ensure they align with Trump’s law-and-order policy.
3. End excessive court fines on poor people
Sessions revoked 25 Justice Department guidance documents on a range of federal laws. One of them was from President Obama’s DOJ that called on courts to stop trapping poor people in cycles of fines, debt and jail.
4. Block voter suppression efforts
Republican controlled states continue to employ a myriad of schemes to suppress voter turnout among racial minorities, poor people and other groups that tend to support Democrats. Those efforts include cutbacks on early voting, ID requirements and banning ex-felon from casting a ballot. On Tuesday, new concerns were raised after a federal judge lifted a decades-old ban on the Republican National Committee from engaging in voter intimidation.
5. Oppose efforts to renew the War on Drugs
Sessions has signaled a return to the racially biased “war on drugs” policy that led to mass incarceration that will include stepping up drug and gun prosecutions, as well as enforcing mandatory minimum sentences. He revoked Obama-era policies on marijuana Thursday that is widely viewed as a major step in that direction.