This month President Biden nominated five additional people to helm the 93 districts of the Office of the United States Attorney. These five nominees brought Biden’s total nominations for the office up to just 53 out of 92 nominees for the office, or a little more than half. The vast majority of these nominations have occurred in states with a Democratic Senatorial delegation with many of these seats held hostage by Republicans wielding a racist Senate tradition to arbitrarily obstruct the process and these crucial seats nationwide. Now, nearly a year and a half into Biden’s presidency, the fact that almost half of these positions are still left without a nominee is a glaring indictment of Biden’s failure to prioritize these critically important positions.
As we have highlighted previously, US Attorney positions possess immense power, and the agents nominated to them have a real opportunity to implement and innovate real material change across the country. From cracking down on corporate and white collar crime to going after environmental destruction, each U.S. Attorneys office has the potential to implement a more just vision of justice for real people in real time. Unfortunately, President Biden has thus far failed to direct the attention which such a significant department mandates towards the critical need for nominations to fill these offices. Biden, along with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, has to dedicate real time and resources towards establishing leaders across these offices who are aligned with his agenda. In short, Biden must finally begin prioritizing these critical offices as key to the implementation of his policy proposals.
TOM COTTON AND PARTISAN POLITICKING
To be fair, Biden’s pace relationally to these nominations has been sluggish and inadequate, but his legitimate efforts on this front continue to be sabotaged by Republicans’ bad faith obstruction. Republicans have’ weaponized the blue slips process, an antiquated and racist Senate tradition, and Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) has conducted an absurd, months-long series of blockade of judicial nominees stemming from his own misbegotten sense of pride and for his own juvenile and partisan sense of entertainment. While many of Biden’s nominees have now finally made it through the Senate slog of these confirmation battles, many were made to endure months of senseless procedural formalities intended only to make the process as painful and slow as possible.
Cotton began sabotaging confirmations in December, when he began forcing the Senate into a roll-call vote on judicial nominees, a procedural hurdle that adds incredible amounts of time to an already long-winded process. Cotton began the December blockade ostensibly because he was suddenly offended by something that Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) had done in March 2021. Cotton proceeded to demand a (belated) public apology from Durbin for the offense, and announced that he wouldn’t ease the blockade until such an apology had been issued. A perfectly logical, reasoned, professional, and mature response to suffering a perceived slight that happened nine months earlier. Durbin did apologize, and Cotton briefly allowed extremely qualified nominees to proceed to their critical federal positions without additional hindrance from him. Briefly is the key word, though, as Cotton soon proceeded to begin re-holding judicial nominees (including federal judgeships, U.S. Marshals, and U.S. Attorneys) so as to grandstand for his base regarding the Justice Department’s refusal to pay for representation for several U.S. Marshals who are being sued for abusing protestors in Portland during 2020. Cotton’s outrage is false in and of itself, but Cotton – along with several other malicious Republican Senators – is merely manipulating this upset over a completely irrelevant issue so that he might leave crucial federal offices kneecapped, empty, and without leadership across the country.
These confirmations will almost certainly not be the last to be plagued by malicious Republican political maneuvering as Republicans have made it clear that they will do everything in their power to dismantle Biden’s agenda, including through the blanket rejection of his personnel regardless of the consequences for the public and the critical offices which serve them. Republicans are dedicating real time and effort to dismantling federal agencies through malicious, not to mention inane, political tactics. The Biden administration must respond in kind and work with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the rest of his party to force progress on these critical personnel. Of course, Democrats must finally dedicate time and effort to calling out the malicious political maneuvering in which their colleagues across the aisle so stealthily engage.
This sabotage matters – and Democrats must call it out as such. While Democrats have long accepted this as the way things are in the Senate, they can accept this false truth no longer, and must instead work towards a confirmation system that is productive, sustainable, and (above all) is possible. In the meantime, Biden must finally nominate officials for his party to push through, and must do so with the urgency the situation mandates.
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“Tom Cotton” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.