Much of what Donald Trump vows to accomplish will land on the desk of Jeff Sessions, if he's confirmed as attorney general.
Restricting immigration. Imposing tougher criminal justice policies. And deciding the fate of the $85.4 billion proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which President-elect Trump continues to oppose.
Implementing that agenda will require undoing a range of Obama-era policies that offered a gentler approach to enforcing immigration than the senator advocates, tolerance for the booming market in legal marijuana and an overhaul of sentencing.
It's a huge opportunity for the 70-year-old Alabama native who took a gamble backing Trump early in the primaries and is now on the cusp of becoming the nation's top law enforcement officer. With his Senate confirmation hearings beginning on Tuesday, the question is how many Democrats will vote against Sessions to protest the changes he's sure to make, knowing they will fall short of blocking the nomination unless some of his fellow Republicans turn against him.
"The new job he's seeking is one that requires a much bigger view of the world than any one of us would have as a United States senator," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who has served alongside Sessions on the Judiciary Committee and said he plans to ask tough questions.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was a federal prosecutor in his home state and served as its attorney general before winning election to the Senate in 1996.
Long one of the Senate's more conservative members, Sessions' public record — including allegations of racist comments that scuttled his nomination to a federal judgeship in the 1980s — gives foes plenty of fodder. His hearing will be among the first for Trump's Cabinet picks and may provide an early indication of how easy or hard subsequent battles will be.
Opposition to Sessions centers largely on issues of civil rights.
"The question is not is Jeff Sessions a racist; the question is not is Jeff Sessions a good man," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "The question is what in his record over 40 years suggests we can trust him to enforce the nation's civil rights laws? The onus is on Senator Sessions to prove in light of that record that he is fit for the position."
Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, went further, saying in an interview that she thinks Sessions could turn "the clock back on our rights and liberties."
Aron and other critics say they are especially concerned about what Sessions would do about restricting Muslims or others groups from entering the U.S.; enforcing consent decrees the Justice Department has reached with police departments to ensure minorities are protected; and ensuring voting rights are preserved.
In Washington, the Rev. William Barber, a pastor and activist who has emerged as a leading religious critic of Trump, joined several clergy members of various faiths in leading about 500 demonstrators on a short march from the Lutheran Church of the Reformation to the Russell Senate Office Building on Monday.
The demonstrators filed in ranks of two along the marble hallways, reciting their grievances against Sessions, and delivered an anti-Sessions petition to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others.
While he supported reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, Sessions also applauded a 2013 decision by the Supreme Court to strike down a section of the law that required some states to get approval from the Justice Department before changing election laws.
Sessions worked with Democrats to pass legislation to reduce sentencing disparities for the possession of crack vs. powder cocaine, which produced much longer sentences for blacks than whites.
Sessions has expressed concern not only about illegal immigration but legal immigration as well, a worry to businesses that depend on recruiting foreigners to fill what they say are gaps in the U.S. workforce. His stance on illegal immigration also has sparked questions about whether he would move to punish or deport more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Sessions' backers say he'll be a dogged and honest enforcer of the law.
Besides highlighting Sessions' vote to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, supporters frequently cite his role as U.S. attorney in helping bankrupt the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, a rebuttal against accusations of racism he's faced for three decades.