Senate narrowly advances Biden civil rights nominee

Senate narrowly advances Biden civil rights nominee
© Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday narrowly voted to proceed with the confirmation of Kristen ClarkeKristen ClarkeDepartment of Justice sues Georgia over voting law Watch live: Garland, Clarke hold press conference announcing voting rights action Pavlich: Biden can't ignore defund the police contributions to violent crime spike MORE, President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE's nominee to lead the Justice Department's civil rights division, over stiff Republican opposition.

The Senate approved a procedural motion by a 50-48 margin to break a tied committee vote over Clarke's nomination, which divided 11-11 on party lines last week.

The floor vote on Tuesday broke mostly along partisan lines as well, with just one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (Maine), voting in favor. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Alaska), who has crossed party lines to support other Biden nominees, was absent.

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans have criticized Clarke as a radical who is anti-police, while Democrats have dismissed GOP opposition as a smear tactic against an eminently qualified civil rights attorney.

"These attempts to smear Ms. Clarke's record are a last-ditch effort to discredit a nominee with exemplary qualifications," Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "The bottom line is this: Ms. Clarke is the right person to lead the civil rights division."

The procedural vote allows the Senate to move forward with a final confirmation vote, which could come within the next week.

Clarke, who in recent years has led the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, would take over the section of the Justice Department tasked with investigating local law enforcement agencies and taking on state voting restrictions around the country.

In a statement after the vote, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (R-Texas) called Clarke a "radical extremist."

"It should come as no surprise Democrats failed to advance her nomination out of the Judiciary Committee by a majority vote and are now forced to use other tactics to bring her troubled nomination to the floor – which I believe is a grave error," Cruz said.

Clarke's confirmation process has mirrored that of Vanita Gupta, who was confirmed in a 50-49 vote to serve as the Justice Department's No. 3 official earlier this year after a tied vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.