Senate Blocks Up-or-Down Vote on Cole; Judiciary Committee Moves OLC Nominee Forward

May 10, 2011

Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a confirmation vote on James M. Cole, who has been serving as Deputy Attorney General for months via a temporary recess appointment, The Washington Post reports.

By a vote of 50 to 40, the Senate voted against invoking cloture, rejecting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to force an up-or-down vote on Cole (pictured right). Cole was first nominated almost a year ago, and has waited “longer for confirmation than any previous nominee for the post in 30 years,” according to The Post.

“The delay in confirming Mr. Cole is ridiculous,” an editorial in The Washington Post asserted before the vote, urging an end to this “unacceptable confirmation delay” because of his “condemnation of Bush-era anti-terrorism tactics.”

If Cole is not confirmed by the Senate, his term will expire at the end of this year. In the meantime, “[o]nly a Senate-confirmed Deputy Attorney General can exercise certain national security authority, such as signing off on applications for surveillance warrants to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Main Justice explains.

“It is hard to believe that one week after the successful operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the world’s number one terrorist, we cannot take this step to ensure that President Obama has his full national security team in place,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said in a statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had more success yesterday in moving nominees forward, approving Bernice Bouie Donald for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Virginia Seitz (pictured left) to head the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and Denise E. O'Donnell to head the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. These nominees are now ripe for consideration by the full Senate.

Seitz, a frequent ACS participant and a partner in Sidley Austin's Washington, D.C. office, is President Obama’s second nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Obama’s first nominee, ACS Board Member and constitutional law professor Dawn Johnsen, withdrew her nomination after a sustained Republican filibuster threat that lasted fourteen months.

Last June, she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post emphasizing the urgency of filling the position with a confirmed nominee after six years in limbo.