Senate

Senate narrowly advances Biden civil rights nominee

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The Senate on Tuesday narrowly voted to proceed with the confirmation of Kristen Clarke, President Biden’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 Collins (Maine), voting in favor. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has crossed party lines to support other Biden nominees, was absent.

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 Durbin (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 Cruz (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.

Tags Dick Durbin Joe Biden Kristen Clarke Lisa Murkowski Susan Collins Ted Cruz

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