- With the backing of the conservative Democrat, the Indian American is expected to have at least 50 votes to ensure her confirmation as Associate Attorney General.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has said he will likely support Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Associate Attorney General, a move that is expected to move her nomination ahead. Manchin told CNN on March 15 that he is likely to back Gupta’s nomination “because of high marks” given to her by the Biden administration’s new attorney general, Merrick Garland. “I have spoken to Merrick Garland — and he is very high on her. And I have all the respect in the world on his decision making,” Manchin said. “I will be leaning towards because of his support.” Unless there’s unexpected opposition from Democrats, Gupta is now expected to have at least 50 votes to ensure her confirmation, despite no support from the GOP.
If confirmed, Gupta would serve as the first woman of color in the post, and would oversee the department’s civil and human rights divisions, as well as antitrust, environmental, grant-making and community policing matters.
During her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 9, Republicans called Gupta a “hypocrite, a radical and a Left activist.” They accused her for supporting to defund the police, which she denies, and criticized her for an earlier call to decriminalize possession of all illegal drugs, a position she says she no longer agrees with. Throughout the hearing, Gupta calmly weathered the vitriol coming her way, and defended her record as a lifelong civil liberty advocate, a consensus builder, a bridge builder.
While she was targeted by all Republican senators, the harshest remarks came from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who called Gupta an “extreme left activist, an “extreme radical advocate” and an “ideologue,” who had “no business leading the department.” Gupta responded: “I am sorry you feel that way.”
Her past tweets were also held against her doing her testimony. Sen Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), read aloud past posts from Gupta’s Twitter feed in which she assailed Republicans, and accused her of “excessive partisanship.” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) read a tweet from 2018 in which Gupta said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had failed her constituents and was “sending a dangerous message” to sexual assault survivors by supporting then-President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Gupta apologized for her tweets. “I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years,” she said. In another instance, she said: “I think the rhetoric has gotten quite harsh over the last several years and I have fallen prey to it. I wish I could take it back. I can’t,” she said. “I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won’t be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told CNN that “it’s possible” that Gupta’s nomination could be advanced out of his committee before the Easter recess begins at the end of next week. Manchin, however, is undecided on the other Indian American nominee — Vivek Murthy, to be surgeon general — whom he opposed for the job under President Barack Obama.
Last month, he was the first Democratic senator to announce his decision to not vote for Neera Tanden, Biden’s former nominee for the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Because of Manchin’s decision, along with lack of support from Republicans, Tanden’s nomination was eventually withdrawn.