Democrats Call In Biden on Key Confirmation Vote, but It’s Not Even Close

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Vice President Joe Biden frowns.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
March 5, 2014, 10:08 a.m.

Des­pite a “full-court press” from the White House and new Sen­ate rules that make sur­pass­ing pro­ced­ur­al votes easi­er, Re­pub­lic­ans and a hand­ful of Demo­crats suc­ceeded in block­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s pick to head the Civil Rights Di­vi­sion of the Justice De­part­ment.

Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden presided over the los­ing vote that saw the nom­in­a­tion of Debo Ad­e­g­bile go down. Biden was on hand to ful­fill his con­sti­tu­tion­al duty of break­ing a tie, but the vote wasn’t even close, fail­ing 47-52. Eight Demo­crats voted with Re­pub­lic­ans, who re­cently moun­ted an ef­fort of their own to block Ad­e­g­bile. (Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id voted against the nom­in­a­tion for pro­ced­ur­al reas­ons.)

The vote rep­res­ents a dis­ap­point­ment — if not an em­bar­rass­ment — for Sen­ate Demo­crats, who since the rules changed in Novem­ber no longer have to reach a three-fifths ma­jor­ity to ad­vance nom­in­ees.

As­sist­ant Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Dick Durbin of Illinois, the party’s chief whip, said that he and the White House had been lob­by­ing mem­bers be­hind the scenes to sup­port the nom­in­ee, but that law-en­force­ment groups, which op­posed Ad­e­g­bile, proved more in­flu­en­tial.

“It was a full-court press from the White House,” Durbin said. “And we worked with them in whip­ping this. I’m very dis­ap­poin­ted.”

Durbin dis­puted the no­tion that if he had more time to whip the vote the con­firm­a­tion would have ad­vanced. He said he had been work­ing be­hind the scenes, and Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Pat Leahy and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Min­nesota also spoke to the caucus be­hind closed doors.

“The de­cision [to hold the vote] was made be­fore,” Durbin said. “And it was made with the White House un­der­stand­ing, with the nom­in­ee un­der­stand­ing, and he said, ‘Let’s go for­ward with the vote,’ and I re­spect him.”

The case against Ad­e­g­bile boiled down to his sup­port of Mu­mia Abu-Jamal—con­victed of the 1981 killing of Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer Daniel Faulkner—whom Ad­e­g­bile de­fen­ded when he headed the NAACP’s Leg­al De­fense and Edu­ca­tion Fund.

Re­id filed a mo­tion to re­con­sider the nom­in­a­tion but did not say when he might bring it up for an­oth­er vote.

COR­REC­TION: An earli­er ver­sion of this story gave an in­cor­rect tally on Ad­e­g­bile’s nom­in­a­tion; the vote was 47-52.

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