Vanita Gupta: Biden’s associate attorney general nominee confirmed after Lisa Murkowski breaks ranks

Vanita Gupta: Biden's associate attorney general nominee confirmed after Lisa Murkowski breaks ranks

Vice President Kamala Harris was on Wednesday morning for a procedural vote in case she was needed for a possible 50:50 tie, but her vote was not required after Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska, broke with her Republican counterparts over Gupta support.

With her confirmation, Gupta will be the first black woman to become an Associate Attorney General. She joins Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco as Justice Department No. 3 officer.

Murkowski declared her support for Gupta in the Senate, saying she was concerned about some of Gupta’s statements, but decided to back her endorsement after a long conversation with the candidate.

“I asked her up close, ‘Why do you want this? Is it worth it?’ Because it was clearly very difficult for her as a candidate, “said Murkowski. “And she paused and thought for a moment, just talking about how she felt called to serve in a very personal way that I found effective.”

“I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who I believe has shown throughout her professional career that she is deeply involved in issues of justice,” Murkowski said.

Republicans were almost entirely united in their opposition to Gupta, who headed the Department of Justice’s civil rights division under the Obama administration. They have argued that Gupta was a “radical” candidate and accused her of changing her positions on issues such as drug legalization and police funding. Senate minority chairman Mitch McConnell on Wednesday accused Gupta of “surprisingly radical positions”.

“She has launched attacks on members of that body and used the most relaxed interpretation of her oath possible during the verification process to make honest statements,” said McConnell.

But Democrats have accused Republicans and outside conservative groups of running a smear campaign to try to block Gupta’s nomination, pointing to their longstanding support for law enforcement groups as number 3 in the Justice Department.

“Ms. Gupta is not only the first black woman ever nominated for this position, she is also the first female civil rights attorney ever nominated for the position, the third-tier officer in the Justice Department,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “That is really shocking. We have never had a former civil rights attorney who worked in such a prominent position in such a prominent position in the Justice Department. In this sense alone, Ms. Gupta would give our federal law a long overdue perspective.” Law enforcement agency. “

Before a final vote on Gupta’s endorsement, Senate Justice Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, and Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, discussed the nomination and Gupta’s statements on drug legalization and underlined the lengthy debate controversial vote.

In his speech on Tuesday following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, Biden cited the nominations of Gupta and Kristin Clarke, his candidate to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

While Harris didn’t have to vote on Gupta’s nomination, she could take action for the president’s nominations soon – even later Wednesday. Several candidates who are about to go down, including Clarke and Colin Kahl, Biden’s election as Pentagon chief of politics, have faced tough GOP opposition. A vote to discharge Kahl’s nomination from the Armed Forces Committee is expected later on Wednesday.

Harris’s role as a tie-breaker in the Senate should be a constant reality for the vice president in a Senate that is evenly split between 50 and 50 on party lines. Harris has cast four votes in the Senate so far, including during the February “vote” on the Senate budget resolution.

Gupta’s confirmation hearing on the Senate Judiciary Committee was controversial and the vote on her nomination to the committee last month was procedurally spat. Republicans accused the Democrats of dragging the debate off to get the vote, while Senate Justice Chairman Dick Durbin said he was only forced to because Republicans were relying on the “two hour rule” of the Senate would be called to prevent the vote.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said last week he would block all nominations by US attorneys from Democratic states to the Justice Committee in retaliation for the vote.

This story and heading have been updated to include additional developments.

CNN’s Morgan Rimmer and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.