The number of black Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee just jumped from zero to two, with the addition of Cory Booker and California’s Kamala Harris to the the powerful committee; the first African Americans to serve the committee in this century. Both were advocated for last month by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond (D-LA) after Judiciary member Al Franken said he would resign his Senate seat. Kamala Harris was seen as the more likely recipient for that slot. Booker’s elevation is more likely due to Doug Jones’ victory over Roy Moore, which changed the party balance of the Senate, leading to a committee assignment shakeup. Both Booker and Harris are on anybody’s short list of potential 2020 presidential candidates; joining the Judiciary Committee raises both their profiles.
Harris: California’s junior senator was state Attorney General until she came to Washington a year ago. As AG, she’s perhaps best known nationally for what she didn’t do, which was prosecute Steve Mnuchin’s One West Bank for foreclosure violations. Mnuchin is now Trump’s Treasury Secretary, which he likely wouldn’t have been if Harris had acted on information she had as AG.
Booker: Cory Booker got his JD at Yale Law School in 1997, where he ran free legal clinics for low-income New Haven residents. After law school he was a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center in NYC.
One year ago this week, Booker made history by becoming the first-ever sitting senator to testify against a fellow sitting senator during a confirmation hearing, when he spoke out against Donald Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Sessions had been a former ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has a great deal to say about the long-term direction of the United States, by virtue of their role conducting hearings on federal judges nominated by the President, including justices of the Supreme Court, and all presidential appointments to the DOJ. And it oversees the federal Department of Justice and all that’s under its umbrella, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.