Monday, July 4, 2011

Senate Finally Confirms DOJ Nominees

Seal of the United States Department of JusticeImage via Wikipedia
The Justice Department’s top leadership, some of which had been in flux because of partisan battles over nominees, has stabilized with the Senate’s confirmation of three high-level officials.
The Senate last week gave final approval to James M. Cole as deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco as assistant attorney general for national security and Virginia Seitz as assistant attorney general of the Office of Legal Counsel. Cole’s confirmation ended a year-long battle with congressional Republicans, while Seitz’s position was at the center of a standoff lasting more than two years.

All three are vital jobs, Justice Department officials say. The deputy attorney general runs the sprawling department as essentially a chief operating officer, while the department’s national security division melds counterintelligence and law enforcement in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. The Office of Legal Counsel provides legal advice that has traditionally carried great weight within the executive branch.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Republicans to block a vote because he was dissatisfied with the Justice Department’s handling of his request for documents related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s“Fast and Furious” anti-gun-trafficking operation. After Grassley reached an agreement with the department and other senators, Cole was confirmed 55 to 42, with three senators not voting. Grassley voted no, saying he had “serious concerns” about Cole’s qualifications.

Seitz, a former appellate lawyer at Sidley Austin’s Washington office, was confirmed in a unanimous voice vote. She becomes the first confirmed head since 2004 of the office made famous during the Bush administration as the place where controversial memos on executive power, the waterboarding of terrorism suspects and warrantless eavesdropping won support.

Holder said in a statement that he was pleased with all three confirmed nominees. “I’m confident they will provide invaluable leadership to the department,’’ he said.
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