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Senate Judiciary Committee Considering Vote On Jeff Sessions As Attorney General

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Tuesday to consider voting on Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions' nomination as attorney general.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, praised the Alabama Republican.

"He's a man of integrity," he said. "He's a man of his word. And he'll enforce the law, regardless of whether he would've supported passage of that law as a legislator."

But the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said she'll vote against Sessions.

Feinstein said she can't reconcile the independence required in the job "with the partisanship this nominee has exhibited.'' Sessions was one of President Donald Trump's earliest supporters.

Feinstein also praised Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who was fired by Trump Monday after she publicly questioned the constitutionality of his refugee and immigration ban.

"That statement took a steel spine to stand up and say no,'' Feinstein said. "That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do.''

Feinstein said she has "no confidence'' Sessions would do that.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a former chairman of the committee, also he had "very serious doubts" that Sessions would be "an independent attorney general."

Leahy plans to vote against Sessions and Sen. Minority Whip Dick Durbin also said he would not vote for Sessions, CBS News reported. 

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Sessions has "a deep and abiding love of the law" and "this is precisely the kind of person we should have as attorney general."

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee votes to confirm Trump's picks for health and Treasury secretary are being indefinitely postponed after Democrats boycotted the meeting.

Democratic senators held an abruptly called briefing for reporters outside the hearing room. They said they were demanding more information about the two nominees, GOP Georgia Rep. Tom Price to be Health secretary and financier Steve Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department.

The Democrats cited separate newspaper reports about Price's trading in a health company stock and Mnuchin's behavior involving foreclosures when he was a banker.

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said he planned to reschedule the votes but did not say when.  He said Democrats "ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots.''

"I don't remember us ever treating their, their nominees this way," he said. "At least I can't remember ever doing that."

In an early morning post on his verified Twitter account, the president said, "When will the Democrats give us our Attorney General and rest of Cabinet."

"They should be ashamed of themselves! No wonder D.C. doesn't work," he said.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also backed Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy secretary.

Trump's nominees met little resistance in the panel Tuesday morning. The committee voted 16-6 for Zinke and 16-7 for Perry. The nominations now go to the full Senate.

And a Senate committee also approved Republican donor and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos for education secretary, even as two GOP senators expressed some reservations.

After a heated debate Tuesday morning, senators on the Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee have voted 12-11 along partisan lines to support DeVos' nomination, sending it to the full Senate for action.

But two prominent Republicans on the committee, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are expressing their skepticism over DeVos. They say they are not yet sure whether they will vote for her on the Senate floor.

Murkowski says DeVos has yet to prove that she deeply cares about America's struggling schools and its children. Murkowski says the nominee has not yet earned her full support.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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