On Sessions’ mind

ON SESSIONS’ MIND…. If I didn’t know better, I might think Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has a preoccupation with issues related to race and ethnicity. That couldn’t be, could it?

This morning, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) castigated Sotomayor for not ruling with her fellow Puerto Rican colleague, conservative Judge José A. Cabranes, when she decided to deny an en banc appeal in Ricci v. DeStefano, a process in which all judges of a court hear a case (as opposed to a three-judge panel of them). Sessions seemed to indicate that people of the same ancestry should vote the same way:

“You voted not to reconsider the prior case. You voted to stay with the decision of the circuit. And in fact your vote was the key vote. Had you voted with Judge Cabranes, himself of Puerto Rican ancestry, had you voted with him, you could’ve changed that case.”

Now, why would Sessions find it necessary to point out that Cabranes is “of Puerto Rican ancestry”? Does Sessions think judges of similar ethnicities should vote together for some reason.

Put it this way: imagine how absurd it would have been if, during Alito’s confirmation hearings, Russ Feingold pressed him on why he didn’t vote in a certain case with another Italian-American judge.

Lillian Rodriguez- Lopez, president of the Hispanic Federation, called Sessions’ comment “baffling.”

Then again, given Sessions’ background on issues related to diversity, maybe it’s not.

I know the Senate GOP caucus was in a bit of a jam when Arlen Specter switched parties, but making Jeff Sessions the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee was a mistake — and the nationally televised hearings this week only help make this mistake more obvious.

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Steve Benen

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.