(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans Monday night blocked the Obama administration’s pick to be deputy attorney general, James Cole.
Cole’s nomination to become the second-in-command to Eric Holder at the Justice Department failed to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, going down to defeat 50-40. The only Republican to support Cole was Indiana’s Dick Lugar. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote to no to allow him to bring up the nomination again at a later date.
Frustrated Democrats quickly noted that the current terrorism threat in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death demands a complete national security team. The timing, Democrats said, makes the GOP’s historic filibuster the “wrong filibuster at the wrong time.”
“Experts and the American people believe that we are now facing a heightened terrorism threat in the wake of the raid upon Osama bin Laden’s compound," said Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy. "Our success in protecting our nation depends on the ability of the president to rely on his national security team. Jim Cole is a key member of that team, with a well-deserved reputation for toughness, fairness, and integrity. He has demonstrated the leadership skills and clear-eyed focus on the mission that we need against al Qaeda,”
“This is the wrong filibuster at the wrong time, against a nominee endorsed by former Republican Sen. Jack Danforth and other Republican officials,” Leahy added. “For the first time in history, a nominee to serve as the deputy attorney general -- a key national security position -- is facing a partisan filibuster.”
Reid said, “Republicans are blocking us from confirming the man who signs the warrants they need to hunt down terrorists. This is not the time to play partisan games with our nation’s safety.”
Still, the GOP opposition to Cole was steadfast. The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, raised concerns about Cole’s time as an independent consultant to insurance giant AIG, as well as Cole’s views on combating terrorism.
Grassley added that Cole was a recess appointment by President Obama, another issue that fueled Republican opposition.
The Obama administration responded to Monday night’s Senate vote by saying it is “confident” Cole will be confirmed, but “disappointed” in Monday night’s vote.
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