Senate Confirms Obama DoJ Civil Rights Nominee
Updated 3:58 p.m.
By Krissah Thompson
The Senate voted Tuesday afternoon to confirm President Obama's nominee to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Thomas Perez, a former Maryland politician and civil rights lawyer, was named Assistant Attorney General and head of the Civil Rights Division. He will take over a division that Attorney General Eric Holder has said he wants to "restore" and make the "crown jewel" of the department.
The vote was 72-22. All 55 Democrats who voted supported the nomination. Republicans were split -- with 22 against and 17 in favor.
"I am very pleased to welcome Tom Perez back to the Justice Department," Holder said in a statement. "One of my highest priorities as Attorney General has been to ensure that the Civil Rights Division will again continue to advance the interests of justice and equal protection for all Americans."
Confirmation hearings were held for Perez in late April and his nomination was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, but then held up by Republicans who expressed concern about the direction of the Justice Department under Holder.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) asked Senate Republicans to delay Perez's confirmation after the Department reduced charges in a case of alleged voter intimidation against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia that was filed in the waning days of the Bush administration. Smith called the decision "possible political interference" and recently said he hoped Perez's nomination would remain stalled.
Justice Department officials are looking into the decision to reduce the charges in the New Black Panther case, and Senate Democrats pushed Perez's nomination through Tuesday afternoon.
"There are no questions about the qualifications of Tom Perez. During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Perez made clear his commitment that the Justice Department would enforce the law," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee (D-Vt.). "In the arena of civil rights, living up to those assurances is particularly important.... I have full confidence that he is the right person to restore the Civil Rights Division to its finest traditions of independent law enforcement."
Web Politics Editor
October 6, 2009; 12:53 PM ET
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