12.02.10

Senate Republicans Object To Request To Debate And Vote Deputy Attorney General Nominee

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010) – Senate Republicans Thursday objected to a request to debate and vote on Deputy Attorney General nominee James Cole.  Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) offered a consent request on the Senate Floor Thursday to bring the Cole nomination to a vote.

In July, a majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the Cole nomination to the full Senate for consideration.  Cole’s nomination has been pending on the Senate floor for more than four months, far longer than any of the four nominees for Deputy Attorney General during the Bush administration.  All four of the Deputy Attorneys General who served under President Bush – Larry Thompson, James Comey, Paul McNulty and Mark Filip – were confirmed by the Senate by voice vote an average of 21 days after they were reported by the Judiciary Committee.   Thompson’s nomination was confirmed the day it was reported by the Committee. 

“Mr. Cole’s nomination has been pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar for four and a half months, since it was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee in July,” said Leahy.  “Those Republican Senators who continue to block us from considering this well-qualified nominee should come forward and explain why they feel it is justified to continue to leave America without a crucial resource we need to combat terrorism and keep the country safe.  There is no justification for the failure to act on this critical national security nomination, especially as the Senate is so close to adjournment that the objection could lead to months of additional delay.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) objected to Leahy’s request.

The Deputy Attorney General is the second highest-ranking official in the Justice Department.  The position has been vacant since February, when David Ogden stepped down. Cole has held various positions in the Department of Justice, including in the Office of the Attorney General and in the Criminal Division.  He also previously served as a special counsel in the House of Representatives.  His nomination has received bipartisan support from public officials and high-ranking veterans of the Justice Department. 

On Wednesday, eight past Deputy Attorneys General sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, urging that the Senate vote on the Cole nomination.  The letter was signed by Deputy Attorneys General from the each of the past four presidential administrations, as well as by Ogden.

“We are a bipartisan group of former Deputy Attorneys General of the United States.  We write to urge the expeditious consideration by the Senate of the nomination of James Cole to be Deputy Attorney General,” the letter said.  “Because of the responsibilities of the position of Deputy Attorney General, votes on nominations for this position usually proceed quickly.”

The letter was signed by Carol Dinkins, who served during the Reagan administration; Donald Ayer, who served during the administration of George H.W. Bush; Jamie Gorelick and Philip Heymann, who served during the Clinton administration; Larry Thompson, Paul McNulty and Mark Filip, who served during the George W. Bush administration; and David Ogden, who was confirmed in March 2009.

The text of the letter is available online.

The full text of Leahy’s remarks follow.

# # # # #

 

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,On A Unanimous Consent Request To Consider The Nomination Of
James Cole To Be Deputy Attorney General

December 2, 2010

 

As Prepared for Delivery

In a letter sent yesterday to Senate Leaders, former Deputy Attorneys General of the United States who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations urged the Senate to consider the nomination of James Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General without further delay.  The Deputy Attorney General is the number two position at the Department of Justice, a critical national security and Federal law enforcement position.  These former officials who served with distinction in that post write that the Deputy 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 are right.  I thank them for speaking out to urge the Senate to complete consideration of this important nomination. I ask that a copy of this letter be included in the record at the end of my statement.

Mr. Cole’s nomination has been pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar for four and a half months, since it was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee in July.  Those Republican Senators who continue to block us from considering this well-qualified nominee should come forward and explain why they feel it is justified to continue to leave America without a crucial resource we need to combat terrorism and keep the country safe.  Today I will seek unanimous consent for a time agreement to debate this nomination and finally have a vote in the fill Senate.  Those who oppose the nomination are free to say why and vote no, but let’s end the stalling.

President Obama nominated Jim Cole to be Deputy Attorney General on May 24, over six months ago.  I thank the Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Sessions, for working with me to schedule a hearing on the Cole nomination while the Committee was preparing for Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing.  I wish that we could have proceeded in that same spirit in the Senate.  As the former Deputies note in their letter, “[b]ecause of the responsibilities of the position of Deputy Attorney General, votes on nomination for this position usually proceed quickly.”  They also note that of the 11 nominations to fill this position over the last 20 years from Democratic and Republican presidents, “none remained pending for longer than thirty-two days.”  Indeed, all four of the Deputy Attorneys General who served under President Bush—three of whom signed the letter we received yesterday—were confirmed by the Senate by voice vote an average of 21 days after they were reported by the Judiciary Committee.   In fact, we confirmed President Bush’s first nomination to be Deputy Attorney General the day it was reported by the Committee.  We should treat the nomination of Jim Cole with the same urgency and seriousness with which we treated President Bush’s nomination of Larry Thompson, James Comey, Paul McNulty and Mark Filip.  We should reject the strategy of the Senate Republicans of elevating their partisan goal to weaken the Obama administration over taking action to keep us safe.

In November, over four months after Mr. Cole responded to written questions following his confirmation hearing, two Senators sent him additional follow-up questions on a topic covered extensively during the earlier questioning.  Two weeks ago, Mr. Cole promptly answered even these additional questions.  There is no reason for Republicans to continue blocking the Senate’s consideration of this nomination.

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.  As he clearly demonstrated during his confirmation hearing months ago, he understands the issues of crime and national security that are at the center of the Deputy Attorney General’s job. 

This nomination has received strong endorsements from Republican and Democratic public officials, and from high-ranking veterans of the Justice Department, including the letter to the Senate leaders yesterday from eight former Deputy Attorneys General who served in the administrations of President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, President Clinton, and President George W. Bush, as well as the current administration.  Former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, who worked with Jim Cole for more than 15 years, described Mr. Cole to the Committee as someone without an ideological or political agenda.   

The months of delay of this nomination have been unnecessary, debilitating and wrong.  Accordingly, at this time I propound the following unanimous consent request:

I ask unanimous consent, as if in Executive Session, that at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader following consultation with the Republican Leader, that the Senate proceed to Executive Session to consider calendar number 1002, the nomination of  James Michael Cole to be Deputy Attorney General; that there be two hours of debate with respect to the nomination, with the time equally divided and controlled between the Chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee;  that upon the use or yielding back of such time, the Senate proceed to vote on confirmation of the nomination; that upon confirmation, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table; and that the President be immediately notified of the Senate’s action and the Senate then resume legislative session.

[Senator Sessions objected.]

There is no justification for the failure to act on this critical national security nomination, especially as the Senate is so close to adjournment that the objection could lead to months of additional delay.  I hope that the Senate Republicans turn away from their destructive approach so that we can consider and confirm Jim Cole immediately and he can finally begin his important work to help protect the American people.

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693