Senate confirms Obama’s first U.S. attorney nominees

The Senate on Friday confirmed President Barack Obama’s first U.S. attorney nominees, as well as Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. as U.S. ambassador to China.

The confirmations broke a three-month logjam in the chamber’s Judiciary Committee pipeline and came a day after senators voted 68-31 to send Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court as the court’s first Hispanic justice.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the confirmations represent a breakthrough and that he hopes several remaining nominations will be considered when the Senate reconvenes in September.

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“The U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals are the top federal law officers on the ground in our states. The confirmation of President Obama’s first nominees to these positions is long overdue,” Leahy said in a statement.

Huntsman was re-elected in November to his second term, winning 77 percent of the vote. He was the U.S. ambassador to Singapore under President George H. W. Bush from 1992 to 1993, and was nominated by Obama on May 16 as the country’s ambassador to China.

Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert will succeed Huntsman.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released a statement Friday hailing the “tremendous qualities and leadership Governor Jon Huntsman will bring to the position of Ambassador to China.”

“This position is of extreme importance to our nation and to the international world because of China’s continuing role in the global economy, and on the political international state,” Hatch said. “I look forward to great things from now-Ambassador Huntsman, and have every confidence that he will continue to exemplify the leadership he demonstrated at the helm of our state, in a nation of great importance across the globe.”

The U.S. attorney nominations included Tristram Coffin as U.S. attorney for the District of Vermont; Joyce Vance as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama; Preet Bharara as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; B. Todd Jones as U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota and  John Kacavas as U.S. attorney for the District of New Hampshire.

The chamber also confirmed Thomas McLellan as Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy and Alejandro Mayorkas as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.