The Senate narrowly confirmed civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, voting 51 to 49, with only one Republican breaking ranks.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) broke with her party to support moving forward with the nomination for the No. 3 position at the Justice Department. She later did the same on the confirmation vote.
Murkowski explained in a floor speech that when she met with Gupta she’d been impressed with her passion for her work and that they had a long conversation about the staggering rates of domestic violence against Alaska Native American women.
“As we discussed these issues…I felt I was speaking to a woman who had not only committed to a professional life to try to get to the basis of these injustices — to try to not just direct a little bit of money, put a program in place and call it a day — but to truly try to make a difference,” Murkowski said.
Gupta’s nomination has been among the more controversial ones put forward by Biden, with Republicans seizing upon previous tweets that they claimed showed too much partisanship for the position.
Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked on advancing Gupta’s nomination to the floor, forcing Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use a procedural maneuver to allow full Senate consideration.
Before Wednesday’s procedural vote, Schumer urged colleagues from both parties to support Gupta.
“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,” he said. “That’s shocking, really. We never have had a former civil rights attorney serving in such a position of prominence at the Justice Department.”
On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position at the Justice Department.
That vote was 98 to 2, with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voting against Biden’s choice.
The nomination of Monaco, who served in the Justice Department during the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations, generated little controversy.