For the first time in its 200-year history, the Senate Judiciary Committee has two black committee members after Democrats appointed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to the influential panel.
The dual appointment, announced on Tuesday, came as somewhat of a surprise. Democrats needed to fill two spots on the committee, following the resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and the victory of Doug Jones in Alabama’s special Senate election last month.
The Congressional Black Caucus had been pushing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to appoint one of its members, and Harris, former attorney general of California, had been expected to take one of the seats, according to The Associated Press. In the end, however, Schumer chose both African-American Democratic senators for the panel.
“The Congressional Black Caucus could not be more proud of both of our Senate members and know the experience and expertise they bring to the Committee will be beneficial for all Americans, specially those disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the caucus chairman, said in a Tuesday statement.
Only one other African-American lawmaker has served on Judiciary Committee since its founding in 1816. Then-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) was a member of the committee in the 1990s.