Obama nom­i­nee for Jus­tice blocked in Se­nate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

Se­nate Repub­li­cans on May 9 blocked a nom­i­na­tion by Pres­i­dent Obama for the first time this year, when they suc­cess­fully fil­i­bus­tered the con­fir­ma­tion of the White House’s pick for the No. 2 of­fi­cial at the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

Democrats had ar­gued that acting Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral James Cole, whom Mr. Obama wanted named to the post per­ma­nently, needed full con­gres­sional back­ing if in­tel­li­gence from ter­ror­ist mas­ter­mind Osama bin Laden’s killing is to be fully put to use.

But Repub­li­cans ob­jected to Mr. Cole, largely over con­cerns about his sug­ges­tions that ter­ror­ist sus­pects should be tried in civil­ian crim­i­nal courts, not mil­i­tary tri­bunals.

“Mr. Cole un­for­tu­nately stands by re­ally the out­dated, out­moded char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that these ter­ror­ist at­tacks were or­di­nary crimes, which they are some­thing much worse in­deed,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Repub­li­can.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple want a Depart­ment of Jus­tice that is com­mit­ted to en­forc­ing the law and pro­tect­ing the in­no­cent, not cre­at­ing new civil rights for ter­ror­ists or treat­ing them as or­di­nary crim­i­nals when they are some­thing else in­deed.”

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, had used a par­lia­men­tary tac­tic in­tended to over­come GOP re- sis­tance of Mr. Cole. The clo­ture mo­tion lim­ited de­bate, but also re­quired the OK of at least 60 sen­a­tors be­fore the nom­i­na­tion could pro­ceed to­ward a fi­nal vote. Democrats con­trol 53 of the Se­nate’s 100 seats.

But Mr. Cole never got a fi­nal vote, as the clo­ture mo­tion fell short on a vote of 50-40. Sen. Richard G. Lu­gar of In­di­ana was the lone Repub­li­can to side with the Democrats’ failed at­tempt to over­come the fil­i­buster. Ten sen­a­tors were ab­sent and didn’t vote.

Mr. Reid, in a par­lia­men­tary tac­tic, switched his “yes” vote to a “no” vote in or­der to re­serve the right to bring up Mr. Cole’s nom­i­na­tion again later.

Mr. Obama sidestepped the Se­nate to di­rectly ap­point Mr. Cole, whose nom­i­na­tion had been stalled for months, when the Se­nate was on re­cess in late De­cem­ber.

Be­cause Mr. Cole is a so-called “re­cess ap­point­ment,” his term will ex­pire at the end of the year un­less he is con­firmed by the full Se­nate.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa, the se­nior Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, has said he typ­i­cally op­poses re­cess ap­point­ments on prin­ci­ple be­cause they by­pass nor­mal Se­nate pro­ce­dure.

“We have a process in place for nom­i­na­tions, and if the pres­i­dent isn’t will­ing to work with sen­a­tors to clear nom­i­na­tions, the nom­i­nee shouldn’t get a sec­ond bite at the ap­ple,” he said.

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Pa­trick J. Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat, ac­cused Repub­li­cans of play­ing pol­i­tics with na­tional se­cu­rity, say­ing it was “the wrong fil­i­buster at the wrong time.”

“Our suc­cess in pro­tect­ing our nation de­pends on the abil­ity of the pres­i­dent to rely on his na­tional se­cu­rity team,” he said. “Jim Cole is a key mem­ber of that team, with a well-de­served rep­u­ta­tion for tough­ness, fair­ness and in­tegrity.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion and many Capi­tol Hill Democrats have pushed for many terrorism sus­pects to be tried in civil­ian courts, while Repub­li­cans want mil­i­tary tri­bunals used in­stead.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. said in Paris May 9 that the United States is still com­mit­ted to clos­ing the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity for terrorism sus­pects at U.S. Naval Base Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, de­spite miss­ing a self­im­posed dead­line to do so.

“We think that by clos­ing that fa­cil­ity, the na­tional se­cu­rity of the United States will be en­hanced,” he said.

Mr. Cole was a Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial for 13 years be­fore en­ter­ing pri­vate law prac­tice in 1992. Dur­ing his first stint with the depart­ment, he served as deputy chief of the pub­lic in­tegrity sec­tion, which in­ves­ti­gates and pros­e­cutes corruption cases of elected and ap­pointed of­fi­cials at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Mr. Cole was named a part­ner at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP in 1995, spe­cial­iz­ing in white-col­lar de­fense. He served as spe­cial coun­sel for the House ethics com­mit­tee in its 1997 in­ves­ti­ga­tion of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Some Repub­li­cans also voiced con­cerns about Mr. Cole’s role as an in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor for Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Group Inc. that be­gan in the years prior to the com­pany’s fi­nan­cial trou­bles, which sur­faced in 2008.

Mr. Grass­ley said con­fi­den­tial re­ports he has read sug­gest Mr. Cole’s han­dling of the AIG case “re­veal what ap­pears to be a level of def­er­ence to AIG man­age­ment one would not ex­pect to see from some­one tasked as an ‘in­de­pen­dent’ mon­i­tor.’ ”

Mr. Cole is only the sec­ond Obama nom­i­nee to be suc­cess­fully fil­i­bus­tered by Repub­li­cans dur­ing his pres­i­dency. Last year, Repub­li­cans used the ma­neu­ver to block Craig Becker, whom the pres­i­dent had tabbed to be on the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board.

Af­ter Mr. Becker’s re­jec­tion, the pres­i­dent ap­pointed him to the board tem­po­rar­ily dur­ing a con­gres­sional break. His re­cess term also ex­pires at the end of the year un­less con­firmed by the Se­nate, a move that ap­pears more in doubt, given the out­come of Mr. Cole’s vote.


Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa, the top Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Repub­li­can, said he typ­i­cally op­poses re­cess ap­point­ments on prin­ci­ple, be­cause they by­pass nor­mal Se­nate pro­ce­dures.

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