Before today, only one African-American had served on powerful Judiciary Committee in its 200-plus year history
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has been appointed to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, one of the most influential and important committees in the chamber.
In addition to Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was also appointed to the committee, marking the first time two African-Americans will serve simultaneously on the panel. The pair are only the second and third African-Americans to ever serve on the Judiciary Committee in its 200-plus year history.
The Judiciary Committee is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice, and Booker has been one of the most outspoken and persistent critics of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Congress. During Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January 2017, Booker became the first sitting Senator to testify against a fellow Senator nominated for a cabinet post, blasting the nominee
for his outdated and misguided views on criminal justice and questioning his ability to ensure equal rights for all Americans.
Booker has been a fierce advocate for reforming America’s criminal justice system dating to his days as a tenant lawyer, city council member, and mayor of Newark, where he saw the disparities in the criminal justice system first-hand, and has become known as one of the most outspoken advocates for criminal justice reform in Congress. Since joining the Senate, Booker has written or cosponsored nearly two dozen bills to reform our broken system of justice.
“Fixing America’s broken criminal justice system has been a decades-long passion of mine, and the urgency with which we must act has grown with the extraordinarily dangerous, backwards policies being advanced by Attorney General Sessions and President Trump,” said Booker. “At a time when civil rights are increasingly under assault by the Executive Branch, and when ideological extremism and abuse of the judicial confirmation process are undermining our democratic institutions, I will bring every ounce of energy I have to this position, responsible for direct oversight of the nation’s Attorney General, our system of justice, and the judiciary.
“Make no mistake about it – our country is at a decisive turning point. The Trump administration has repeatedly demonstrated its hostility to the ideals of civil rights and equal justice for all. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will make it my mission to check and balance President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. At every turn I will strive to advance the cause of reforming a broken justice system stacked against the poor and people of color, and to bend the arc of our nation’s history further towards equal justice for all.
“I couldn’t be more excited that my dear friend Senator Harris will also be joining the committee. She is an immensely talented person who brings a wealth of skills and experience to the table. I can’t wait to work alongside her.”
Booker has long sought reform to the criminal justice system. As Newark mayor, Booker established the city’s first office of prisoner re-entry to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-integrate into their communities, worked with the ACLU and residents to increase transparency and seek reforms at the Newark Police Department, and advocated for broader reforms
in the criminal justice system.
Since being elected to the Senate in 2013, Booker has pressed Congress to fix the broken system by introducing bipartisan legislation to reduce recidivism, drive down incarceration rates, protect juveniles, save taxpayers money, and make communities safer.
Booker teamed up with Republican Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in 2014 to introduce the bipartisan REDEEM Act
, sweeping legislation to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system. Booker introduced the Dignity Act
with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Harris last year, which would reform the way women are treated behind bars.
Booker was a key architect of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act
, one of the most comprehensive bipartisan criminal justice bills ever to be introduced in Congress. He is also the author of the landmark Marijuana Justice Act
, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, a prohibition that disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color.
Booker was also one of the first Senators to call for Sessions to resign
following revelations that the Attorney General had withheld key information about his contact with Russia during his confirmation process. A few months later he co-authored bipartisan legislation to protect the Special Counsel
from political interference by the President, which would provide a much-needed judicial check on the Executive Branch’s ability to remove a special counsel.
Senator Booker is also a cosponsor of legislation to update existing antitrust laws, and has pressed the Justice Department
to use available tools to counter corporate concentration and its impact on jobs and wages.
Beyond its role in providing oversight of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the committee also oversees the Department of Homeland Security and plays a crucial role in the consideration of many key executive branch nominations, including all nominations to the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. More information on the committee’s jurisdiction is available here
, and background on its history is here
In addition to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in 2018, Booker will serve on the Committee on Foreign Relations; the Committee on Environment and Public Works; and the Committee on Small Business.