06.28.11

Senate Confirms Three Nominations To Critical National Security Posts At DOJ

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, June 28, 2011) – The Senate Tuesday confirmed three nominees to fill important national security posts at the Department of Justice, including the long-stalled nomination of Jim Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General.  Cole was first nominated in May 2010, and was first reported by the Judiciary Committee in July 2010.  The nomination was filibustered in May by Senate Republicans.

“The unprecedented filibuster of the nomination of the Deputy Attorney General has been especially egregious,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).  “The Deputy Attorney General is the number two position at the Justice Department, a position with key national security responsibilities.  Despite significant bipartisan support and unquestionable qualifications, Jim Cole’s nomination has been blocked for nearly a year.”

Leahy continued, “Jim Cole served as a career prosecutor at the Justice Department for a dozen years and has a well-deserved reputation for fairness, integrity and toughness.  He has demonstrated that he understands the issues of crime and national security that are at the center of the Deputy Attorney General’s job.”

The Senate also confirmed the nominations of Lisa Monaco to be the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, and the nomination of Virginia Seitz to be the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.  Both nominations were unanimously reported by the Judiciary Committee in May, and were confirmed by the Senate by voice vote.

 

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On Confirmation Of Long-Pending Nominations To The Department Of Justice

June 28, 2011


After extensive and unnecessary delays, the Senate will finally vote today on three important nominations to fill high-level posts at the Department of Justice.  Two of these positions have national security responsibilities.  I cannot recall a time when the Justice Department and the country were deprived of such critical appointees.  It is especially hard to understand how we have not been able to vote on nominees for positions with significant national security responsibilities like the Deputy Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.  The nominations of Jim Cole to be Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco to be Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Virginia Seitz to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel have been blocked for months by Republican obstruction over matters not related to the qualifications of the nominees and in abject disregard of the needs of the Justice Department and the country.  I am glad that today we will finally have votes and I trust confirm these superbly qualified nominees.

The unprecedented filibuster of the nomination of the Deputy Attorney General has been especially egregious.  The Deputy Attorney General is the number two position at the Justice Department, a position with key national security responsibilities.  Despite significant bipartisan support and unquestionable qualifications, Jim Cole’s nomination has been blocked for nearly a year.  He was reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July last year, but Republicans prevented a vote.  He was renominated and reported favorably a second time in the middle of March, but Republicans stalled and then filibustered consideration of the nomination last month.  That was the first time in the Nation’s history that a President’s nominee to serve as Deputy Attorney General was filibustered—and it was wrong.   

His was not a nomination that should have been controversial.  It is a nomination supported by former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, who worked with Jim Cole for more than 15 years.  When he introduced Mr. Cole at his confirmation hearing, Senator Danforth described Mr. Cole as someone without an ideological or political agenda.  He also wrote to the Committee: “Jim is a ‘lawyer’s lawyer.’  He is exceedingly knowledgeable, especially on matters relating to legal and business ethics, public integrity and compliance with government regulations.  He is highly regarded [] as a skillful litigator.  As his resume demonstrates, he has long and deep experience in the Department of Justice.” 

I agree.  Jim Cole served as a career prosecutor at the Justice Department for a dozen years and has a well-deserved reputation for fairness, integrity and toughness.  He has demonstrated that he understands the issues of crime and national security that are at the center of the Deputy Attorney General’s job.  Nothing suggests that he is anything other than a steadfast defender of America’s safety.

We have received numerous letters of support for Mr. Cole’s nomination, including from many former Republican public officials.  I put several of those letters in the Record last month.  The Senate should have heeded those recommendations as well as the advice of former Deputy Attorneys General of the United States who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.  They wrote to us last December to urge the Senate to consider Mr. Cole’s nomination without delay—last December—pointing out that the Deputy Attorney General is “the chief operating officer of the Department of Justice, supervising its day-to-day operations” and that “the Deputy is also a key member of the president’s national security team, a function that has grown in importance and complexity in the years since the terror attacks of

September 11.”  They were right.  The Senate was wrong to filibuster this nomination.  The Senate has the opportunity today finally to confirm this good man and public servant.  I trust this institution will take that opportunity.   

Incredibly, the nomination of the Deputy Attorney General was subjected to a partisan filibuster for over three more months while the country faces concerns about terrorism in the aftermath of the President’s successful operation against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  It is hard for me to understand how, at a time when experts are concerned that al Qaeda will seek reprisals, some in the Senate have delayed action to ensure that President Obama has his full national security team in place.     

In the aftermath of 9/11, Senate Democrats expedited law enforcement and national security nominations, confirming an additional 58 officials to posts at the Justice Department before the end of 2001.  The Senate should have done the same with the nomination of Jim Cole.  Senate Republicans should have treated Mr. Cole’s nomination with the same urgency and seriousness with which Senate Democrats treated all four of the Deputy Attorneys General who served under President Bush.  All four were confirmed by the Senate by voice vote an average of 21 days after they were reported by the Judiciary Committee.  No Deputy Attorney General nomination had ever been subjected to a filibuster before.  That is what Senator Republicans did this year.  It was wrong.

In addition, Senate Republicans have blocked votes on the nomination of Lisa Monaco to head the National Security Division at the Justice Department, another key national security position. Her nomination has been blocked even though it was considered at hearings and reported unanimously, not only by the Judiciary Committee, but also by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Her confirmation to lead the National Security Division of the Justice Department has been blocked for seven weeks even though Senator Grassley, Senator Chambliss and all the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted for her.  This has been incredible. 

Lisa Monaco’s nomination had long been supported by former Justice Department officials, including former Attorney General Mukasey, who served during the President George W. Bush administration.  He wrote: “Based on my meetings and conversations with Ms. Monaco, I believe that she has both sound judgment and a keen understanding of national security law.  Which is to say, she understands both the stakes and the rules.”  The Monaco nomination to head the National Security Division at the Justice Department should have been confirmed before the Memorial Day recess. I have little doubt that she will be confirmed overwhelmingly.  But the almost two-month delay is not excused by voting for her confirmation now.  The National Security Division has been without her leadership.  The national security team has been without another key member. 

Virginia Seitz is another superbly qualified nominee with bipartisan support who should have been confirmed before the Memorial Day recess, but whose nomination has been blocked from consideration by Senate Republicans.  A Rhodes Scholar and former Supreme Court clerk, Ms. Seitz has received support for her nomination from some of the most pre-eminent lawyers in the country, including many who have served in Republican administrations.  This nomination was also reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee.  All Republican members and all Democratic members voted for her.  Then Senate Republicans turned around and blocked her confirmation.

I have seen the crocodile tears of some over the last few days as they lament the lack of an Office of Legal Counsel opinion on how the War Powers Act applied to the NATO-led operation in Libya.  It is Senate Republicans who are responsible for having delayed and blocked the Office of Legal Counsel from having its Assistant Attorney General in place. Today, after seven weeks of obstruction, the Senate will finally consider the nomination of Virginia Seitz.  

The treatment of these nominees is now carrying over to other nominations and important legislative initiatives, as well.  Just last week we witnessed for the first time since the infamous partisan vote on the nomination of Ronnie White of Missouri, the spectacle of Republican Senators who had voted in favor of a nomination in Committee switching to vote against the nomination when considered by the Senate.  We have seen Republican Senators, who in consultation with the White House and Judiciary Committee approved a judicial nominee, flipping to oppose the nominee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has considered two national security related bills during the last two weeks.  Both times Republican Senators professed to support the legislation as they voted against it.  The most critical and time sensitive is the bill before the Senate to authorize a limited extension of the term of service of FBI Director Robert Mueller as the President has requested.  The President made his request more than six weeks ago in light of “the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies.”  He asked us “to join together in extending [Director Mueller’s] leadership for the sake of our nation’s safety and security.”  

Rather than join together as Senate Democrats did with the President following 9/11, seven of the eight Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee opposed the bill. We need to consider and pass that bill without delay.  Both the House and the Senate need to do so before August 3.  With the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approaching, and in the face of continuing threats in the wake of the President’s recent, successful operation against Osama bin Laden, we need the continuity and stability of having FBI Director Mueller in place.  Without enactment of this legislation he will not be.  He will be forced from that critical post on August 3. 

I urge all Senators, Republicans, Democrats and Independents to join together for the good of the country to take quick action to pass the extension, S. 1103.   We cannot afford a repeat of the unnecessary delays that have held up these nominations finally considered today.

I thank today’s nominees for their dedication and look forward to working with them as they faithfully execute their important responsibilities at the Justice Department.  I thank their families for their patience and the support they give these outstanding public servants.

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