Outside of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 11, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey defended his decision to testify against Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
"I don't care about pressure, I don't care about criticism," Booker told reporters, reports The Hill. "When it comes to matters of conscience and country, I will always stand up and I encourage other Americans, during this time in particular, to not be silent on matters of principles, on matters of protecting our Constitution, the values of our nation like equal protection under the law."
Booker spoke out against his colleague at Sessions' Jan. 11 confirmation hearing to become attorney general, marking the first time in history that a sitting senator has testified against another for a prospective cabinet position.
"I know that some of my colleagues are unhappy that I'm breaking with Senate tradition to testify against the nomination of one of my colleagues," Booker testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But I believe, like perhaps all of my colleagues, that in the choice between standing with Senate norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country."
Booker went on to state that the U.S. attorney general must "aggressively pursue the congressional mandate of civil rights, equal rights and justice for all of our citizens" and that he believes Sessions has fallen short on that charge.
"If confirmed, Sen. Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won't," Booker said. "He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans, but his record indicates that he won't. He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won't. He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity, but his record indicates he won't."
Booker is known for reaching across the aisle at times to push forward bipartisan criminal reform acts and even working with far-right conservatives like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, notes CNN.
"I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague," Booker said before testifying, according to CNN. "But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience."