RANKING MEMBER SESSIONS…. When Sen. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party last week, he created an inconvenient vacancy for the GOP: the party needed a new ranking member for the Judiciary Committee. With more senior Republicans already committed to other committees, the job will apparently fall to Jeff Sessions.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) will take over the ranking member position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after striking a deal with his more senior colleagues over the weekend, sources confirm to The Hill. […]

The seven Republicans who remain on the Judiciary Committee after Specter’s departure will meet to vote on Sessions’s ascension early this week. Once they do, the decision goes to the full Republican Conference, which usually ratifies decisions the committee makes. Sources could not recall a ranking member vote made by a committee that was not, in the end, ratified by the full conference.

Sessions is arguably the most right-wing member of the committee, so the move will no doubt please the Republican base. (Some conservative blogs began pushing for this last week.)

But this is also an opportunity of sorts for Democrats, who may want to use Sessions’ promotion to reinforce the arguments about Republicans becoming far too extreme for the American mainstream.

In 2002, The New Republic ran a rather devastating piece about Sessions’ background, most notably with regards to the Alabama Republican’s background on race relations.

Sessions got his start in Alabama politics as a U.S. Attorney. His most notable effort was prosecuting three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

Also during his illustrious career in Alabama, Sessions called the NAACP “un-American” because it, among other groups, “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance when he referred to a white attorney as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but claimed to have been joking. Yeah, “disgrace to his race” is hilarious.

That’s not all. Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him “boy,” and once warn him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”

All of this came to light when Reagan nominated Sessions to be a federal court judge. The Senate ultimately rejected the nomination, labeling Sessions an extremist. Regrettably, Alabama voters weren’t troubled by his record in the slightest, and Sessions successfully ran for the Senate.

Now, he’ll be the ranking member of the same Judiciary Committee that rejected him for being an apparent racist.

Digby added, “Making [Sessions] the ranking member today means the Republicans will put their ugliest face forward during judicial confirmation hearings. But hey, it’s their long, ongoing funeral.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.