Washington — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for attorney general, paving the way for the full Senate to vote to confirm President Biden’s pick to lead the Justice Department in the coming days.
The committee advanced Garland’s nomination with a bipartisan vote of 15 to 7. All seven senators who opposed Garland are Republicans: Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Mr. Biden announced Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as his nominee to helm the Justice Department last month, and he appeared before the Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing last week. He is expected to be confirmed by the Senate with broad bipartisan support.
Garland is poised to step into the position of attorney general as the Justice Department emerges from a tenuous period under former President Donald Trump, during which it was involved in politically charged investigations involving Mr. Trump’s closest allies and beset by allegations of politicization. The former president’s last attorney general, William Barr, was accused by Democrats of doing the president’s bidding, while Mr. Trump claimed some in the department aimed to undermine his presidency and were biased against him.
Garland, however, has vowed to act in the interests not of the president, but of the American people, and pledged to senators that he would fight efforts to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political.
“I am not the president’s lawyer. I am the United States’ lawyer,” he said.
In addition to restoring the Justice Department’s independence, Garland said prosecuting those who participated in the January 6 assault on the Capitol would be his foremost priority. Garland will assume the post atop the Justice Department as it continues several politically sensitive probes, including one involving Hunter Biden and his “tax affairs,” as well as the ongoing examining from special counsel John Durham into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Garland’s nomination for attorney general comes five years after former President Barack Obama tapped him to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in 2016. But Republicans scuttled his nomination, as they argued the vacancy arose too close to the presidential election, and voters should have a voice in the president who fills Scalia’s seat.