President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general was just confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 51 to 49 vote, The Hill reported.
Vanita Gupta clinched a top role in the Department of Justice (DOJ) with the support of all Senate Democrats and just a single Republican in the upper chamber. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the sole lawmaker to break with her party, The Hill noted.
A controversial pick
Gupta, for her part, had previously served as head of the DOJ’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama, a fact that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) touted in a floor speech ahead of the final vote to confirm. “Not only is Ms. Gupta the first woman of color to ever be nominated to the position, she is the first civil rights attorney ever to be nominated to the position — the third-ranking official in the Justice Department,” he said, according to NBC News.
“And just to give you a sense of Ms. Gupta’s commitment to civil rights and racial equity, in her very first case after law school, she won the release of several African Americans who had been wrongfully convicted by all-white juries in Texas,” Schumer added.
Republicans, meanwhile, were far less impressed with Gupta, who Texas Sen. Ted Cruz accused of operating with a left-wing bias.
“Your record is one of extreme partisan advocacy,” Cruz charged at an earlier hearing, as The Hill reported. “Your record is an ideologue.”
The Republican senator went on: “There’s a role in our democratic and political process for ideologues, people who are extreme, radical advocates. That role, I believe, is not being the No. 3 lawyer at the Department of Justice in charge of the impartial and fair administration of justice.”
“I wish I could take it back”
According to NBC News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Gupta had “repeatedly amplified left-wing fear-mongering toward judicial nominees and sitting federal judges” and “levied attacks on members of this body.”
Other GOP lawmakers brought up controversial statements that Gupta has made in past, including her aggressive criticism of former President Donald Trump.
“I regret the harsh rhetoric I have used at times in the last several years,” Gupta admitted in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, according to The Hill. “I think perhaps the rhetoric has gotten harsh over the past several years and I have fallen prey to it.
“I wish I could take it back,” Biden’s nominee added. “I can’t, but what I can commit to you and ask that you do is look at my lifelong record. I have, from early on in my career, sought out people who don’t always think like me, people who have very different views, because I believe in the importance of consensus to get things done.”
According to The Hill, Murkowski, for her part, explained that in voting for Gupta, she was merely giving “the benefit of the doubt to a woman who I believe has demonstrated through her professional career to be deeply, deeply committed to matters of justice.”