- President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general has been receiving resistance from GOP senators for her views on defunding the police and decriminalizing possession of all illegal drugs.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked for a second hearing with Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, citing her “misleading statements and incomplete answers to written questions. Gupta has been receiving resistance from Republican senators for her views on defunding the police and decriminalizing possession of all illegal drugs.”
In a letter written to Chairman Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), all 11 eleven Republican members of the committee accused Gupta on misleading the committee “on at least four issues” — her support for eliminating qualified immunity; her support for decriminalizing all drugs; her support for defunding the police; and her death penalty record.
“Gupta was no more forthcoming,” the letter noted. “In some cases, she doubled down on her misleading statements from the hearing, and in others she refused to answer altogether. In ‘response’ to scores of our questions, she merely copied-and-pasted the same inapplicable, general statements for one question after another.”
Signatories included Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Miss.), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Ten.).
The Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the nominations of Gupta and Lisa Monaco, Biden’s nominee for deputy attorney general on March 25.
On March 18, Durbin had issued a letter to the Judiciary Committee members to support the nominations of Monaco and Gupta. In the letter, he argued that Monaco and Gupta are “the experienced and dedicated leaders we need to restore integrity and independence to the Department of Justice.”
Durbin also addressed a few of the false attacks that are being leveled against Gupta.“Ms. Gupta’s career has demonstrated her commitment to building consensus and bridging partisan and ideological gaps,” he wrote. “It is rare, if ever, that someone with her background and her reputation in the civil rights community enjoys virtually universal support from law enforcement across the United States. It speaks to her judgement, her reputation, and the fact that many who don’t customarily endorse Democrats with a civil rights background for these jobs have stepped forward to do so,” Durbin said. “It’s regrettable that she has been the target of baseless smears, but also telling that she has responded with grace and determination.”
Gupta has also received support from former Department of Justice officials who wrote to GOP senators encouraging them to confirm her. The Hill reported that letters of support for Gupta were issued by former Department of Justice officials who served during the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, as well as one former GOP House member and a former Republican commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission. “Because Vanita Gupta is a strong leader and consensus-builder, we join to urge her prompt confirmation,” the letter said, according to The Hill. It was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and top Senate Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Among the signatories were Michael Chertoff, who served as Homeland Security secretary during the George W. Bush administration; and Don Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general for George H.W. Bush, and several former United States attorneys. Larry Thompson, who served as deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, separately wrote to the senators in support of Gupta, as did former Rep. Tom Coleman (R-Mo.) A fourth letter was sent on March 16, to Durbin and Grassley, from former Republican FEC Chairman Trevor Potter, “who specifically sought to dismiss efforts to characterize Gupta as a partisan.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) 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.
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.