The Senate voted today to confirm Thomas E. Perez as Assistant Attorney General, heading the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice by a vote of 72-22. The confirmation vote followed a cloture vote required by Republican Senators intent on delaying action on President Obama’s nominees.
Cloture votes have been required for nine executive branch nominees in the first eight months of the Obama administration. That’s in contrast to the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, when cloture was filed on only 16 executive nominations.
We welcome the confirmation of Tom Perez, a highly qualified nominee with a big job ahead of him: meaningfully enforcing federal civil rights law. But, unfortunately, the Department of Justice is still waiting for the Senate to confirm many of its top executives. There are too many excellent candidates waiting in the wings who should be confirmed without further delay.
It is unconscionable that this confirmation required a cloture vote. It is clear that Republican senators are committed to holding up everything President Obama is trying to accomplish, even at the cost of hampering the government’s ability to conduct the people’s business.
During the Bush administration the Civil Rights Division suffered an onslaught of politicization that ranged from naming political appointees with no civil rights experience, to driving out career attorneys and replacing them with lawyers hostile to civil rights, to changing the mission of the division itself.
Attorney General Holder has pledged to restore traditional civil rights enforcement, implement measures to depoliticize hiring, and bring on new attorneys committed to enforcing, rather than eviscerating, civil rights protections. These actions are more than a needed course-correction; they are critical to defending the rights of every American and advancing the values of freedom, equality and justice that make this nation great.
The Senate should stop stalling, and give President Obama and Attorney General Holder the executive leadership needed to get the job done.