MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stood by a controversial Trump administration travel ban Tuesday. Meantime, Congress was addressing the president’s nominees but not without some controversy.
Democrats delayed a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on President Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General – Senator Jeff Sessions.
Democrats on the committee used an obscure Senate Rule to delay the vote until Wednesday, according to CBS News. Democratic Senators gave lengthy speeches opposing Sessions for several hours then triggered a rule that prohibits committees from being in session for two hours past the start of the Senate day. It’s a rule that is usually waived.
Democrats say Sessions needs to be able to stand up to President Trump as well.
“The Attorney General is the people’s attorney, not the president’s attorney,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D -Vermont).
If the full Senate approves, Sessions will take over a Department of Justice that has been shaken up after the late night firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce a controversial travel ban.
The White House claimed Yates, an Obama holdover, had “betrayed” the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce his travel ban – a stance reiterated by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during Tuesday’s press briefing.
“Miss Yates failed to enforce a legal order…designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” said Spicer.
Yates said she was not convinced it was “lawful.”
During a late night floor speech Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer framed the firing of Yates as another sign of an impulsive administration.
“We cannot have a presidency that thinks, oh, this sounds good. Let’s just go do it and not think the consequences through,” said Schumer.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz called on Senate Democrats to “confirm sessions…immediately,” writing Yate’s defiance adds her to the list of Obama appointed “attorneys general who put brazen partisan interests above fidelity to law.”
During Yates’ confirmation hearing in 2015, it was Senator Sessions who grilled Yates on her ability to be impartial given her political appointment.
“If the views the President wants to execute are unlawful, should the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General say no,” asked Sessions.
“Senator, I believe that the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General has an obligation to follow the law and the constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president,” responded Yates back in 2015.
Meantime, President Trump met with pharmaceutical executives Tuesday at the White House. The president said he wants to cut regulations regarding FDA regulations and approvals. President Trump also said he wants the pharmaceutical companies to cut prices and move their production back to the U.S.
“The U.S. drug companies have produced extraordinary results for our country, but the pricing has been astronomical for our country. Gonna do better. New drugs have led to longer, healthier lives; we all know that. But we have to do better,” said Trump.
President Trump also continues to get backlash over an order imposing a four-month ban on refugee admissions into the U.S. and a 90-day ban on admissions of any kind from seven mostly Muslim countries.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he had known for years the president was going to sign an order on the travel ban.
“We cannot gamble with American lives. I will not gamble with American lives,” said Kelly.
Whether he knew the details of the order was left unclear but Kelly reiterated the order was no targeting a specific group.
“This is not a ban on Muslims,” said Kelly.
Despite what the White House says, critics are calling it ‘unconstitutional’ and claiming the controversial order does certainly target Muslims.
In a leaked memo, dozens of diplomats at the State Department dissented Monday; arguing that the ban “runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination” and “will not achieve its aim of making our country safer.”
Spicer put them on notice Monday afternoon.
“I think that they should either get with the program or they can go,” said Spicer.
President Trump is expected to sign an order on cybersecurity Tuesday afternoon. He is also scheduled to head to Mar-A-Lago in Florida this weekend.