Right now, there is a push by the Congressional Black Caucus, civil rights groups and others to ensure that the seat being vacated by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee goes to one of the chamber’s two black Democrats: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). They are also lawyers. There hasn’t been an African American on the committee since Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.), who served one term (1993 to 1999).
It’s time for another strong African American voice to be heard on the Judiciary Committee. Given the results of Virginia and Alabama, that voice should be a black woman’s. It should be Harris’s.
You might know her because of the hair flip seen around the world in reaction to a male Senate colleague mansplaining the rules during an Intelligence Committee hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on June 7. But the episode demonstrated the steely seriousness of the first-term legislator.
Before winning her seat in November 2016, Harris was the California attorney general. Before that, she was San Francisco district attorney. In both jobs, Harris focused on preventing or reducing recidivism among first-time low-level drug offenders in the state. As part of her ongoing work on criminal-justice reform, she visited the Central California Women’s Facility, which she told me in July is the largest women’s prison in the world. “We could be a lot smarter as a country on how we’re dealing with policy around keeping communities safe,” Harris said in an interview for the “Cape Up” podcast. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she would have a say in that.
The committee has oversight of the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is wasting no time rolling back the civil rights advances of his predecessors. Even more important, the committee considers nominations to the federal bench, including justices to the Supreme Court, which could have one, maybe two, openings during President Trump’s term.
As we saw in that Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Harris’s questioning was as forceful as it was precise. Just what the Judiciary Committee needs from Franken’s replacement.
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