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Sen. Tom Cotton refused to confirm US attorney nominees in Democratic states until Sen. Dick Durbin apologized for interrupting him nine months ago

December 13, 2021

Dick Durbin apologized to Tom Cotton in order to confirm five US attorney nominees.

Cotton disliked that Durbin interrupted him during a hearing on a Department of Justice nominee.While Durbin apologized to Cotton, he said Republicans attempted to block a vote on the nominee.

Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., refused to confirm the Biden administration’s US attorney nominees in Democratic states until Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., apologized for interrupting him during a committee hearing in March.

Durbin pointed out that Cotton’s objection breaks with custom, stating that it has been nearly half a century since the Senate required a roll call vote on a US attorney nominee. He also recounted how Democrats never held up US attorney nominations during the Trump administration despite having the power to do so.

“Given the critical role that these US attorneys play in bringing justice to those who violate federal criminal laws, it is hard to imagine that any member of this body would obstruct efforts to confirm these law enforcement officials,” Durbin said. “Doing so could threaten public safety and puts at risk millions of Americans’ security. It’s also a stark departure from what has happened before.”

Still, Cotton said that “courtesy and collegiality and respect” need to be a “two-way street” in the Senate, reiterating that he has the right to object to nominees.

“If there are not consequences when rules and traditions are breached in this institution, we will soon not have rules and traditions,” Cotton said. “I also said that if the senator from Illinois would simply express regret for what happened that day and pledge that it wouldn’t happen again, I would be happy to let all these nominees move forward.”

The Recount (@therecount) December 7, 2021

Cotton was referencing a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in March on Vanita Gupta, who was nominated by the Biden administration and later confirmed as an associate attorney general at the Department of Justice.

Durbin, who chairs the committee, interrupted Republican attacks on Gupta in order to force a vote, which resulted in a deadlock, according to The Hill. She was narrowly confirmed by a bipartisan vote in the Senate, 51-49, with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski casting the lone Republican vote of support.

While Durbin eventually acquiesced to Cotton’s demand and apologized for interrupting him during the March hearing, he maintained that Republicans forced his hand by attempting to block a vote on Gupta’s nomination by invoking an obscure Senate rule to prevent the Committee from meeting after midnight, The Hill reported.

“This outrageous obstruction of a nominee with broad support from across the political spectrum left Chair Durbin with no option but to call a roll call vote before the Committee meeting was terminated by Republicans’ invocation of this rule,” an account for Judiciary Committee Democrats tweeted following the vote.

Following Durbin’s apology, the committee unanimously confirmed five nominees for US attorneys in Illinois, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Jersey, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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