Senate confirms controversial deputy attorney general

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed James Cole, 55-42, as United States deputy attorney general despite concerns by Republicans over the nominee's views on national security.

The confirmation means that Cole, who is already serving in the position as a result of a recess appointment made by President Obama on Dec. 29, 2010, will now be secure in his position at the pleasure of the president.  

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Only Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) spoke out against Cole's confirmation from the floor, raising questions about the nominee's ability to perform his job and expressing a suspicion that he might be soft on terrorists.

"I oppose the nomination because I have serious concerns regarding his qualifications," said Grassley. “In particular I am seriously concerned about his views on national security and terrorists.”

In particular, Grassley took issue with Cole's belief that some acts of terrorism ought to be classified as crimes rather than acts of war, and that their perpetrators ought to be tried in civilian courts.

Grassley also said he was troubled by Cole's recess appointment. 

"Whenever the system is bypassed through a recess appointment that nomination will not receive my support," said Grassley. "If the president is not willing to work with senators throughout the process, the nominee should not get a second bite at the apple.”

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But Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) came to Cole's defense, saying the acting deputy attorney general possessed leadership qualities that would allow him to excel in the job. 

"We need leadership that will work in a nonpartisan way,” Cardin said. “Jim Cole is that sort of person. He has the leadership, the discipline, the commitment to fill that important role in our nation.”

Lisa Monaco and Virginia Seitz were also confirmed by unanimous consent to be assistant attorney generals.

The Senate recessed for weekly caucus lunches following the vote and is set to return at 2:15 p.m.