Senate breaks filibuster of Sessions, final vote expected Wednesday

By Ted Barrett CNN

(CNN) -- Sen. Jeff Sessions took a step closer to becoming the nation's top law enforcement officer when the Senate voted Tuesday to advance his nomination for attorney general to a final vote.

The 52-47-1 vote was mostly along party lines. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted with the Republicans and Sessions was the one member to abstain.

A final vote to confirm the Alabama Republican is expected Wednesday.

Sessions has drawn fire from Democrats who say his steadfast support of President Donald Trump's candidacy raises questions about whether he will be an independent attorney general. Those critics say that independence is critical after Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates last month when she refused to support the President's immigration executive order and repeatedly criticized federal judges.

"That's going to be a real test in this administration because there seems to little regard for an independent judiciary --- even for the Constitution itself," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York. "He would be wrong at any time because of his record on immigration, civil rights and voting rights, but particularly wrong now because we need someone who has some degree of independence from the President."

But Republican senators have stood by their colleague, who is popular in the chamber for his gracious southern style and his dogged determination in supporting the issues he cares about.

"We all know Sen. Sessions to be a man of his word. We know he's a man who believes in the rule of law. We know him as someone who is willing to work with anyone, regardless of party --- like when he teamed up on legislation with Democratic colleagues like Sen. (Dick) Durbin and ... our late colleague, Ted Kennedy," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in a floor speech urging the end of a Democratic filibuster against Sessions.

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