WASHINGTON (TIP): Bipartisan Senate opposition blocked swift confirmation on Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s choice to head the US justice department’s civil rights division, the emotional residue of the long-ago murder of a policeman and the legal representation his killer received.
The vote against advancing Debo Adegbile toward confirmation was 47- 52, short of the majority needed under new procedures Democrats put in place earlier this year to overcome Republican stalling tactics. In this case, all 44 voting Republicans and eight Democrats lined up to block confirmation, leaving the nomination is grave jeopardy. Obama swiftly condemned the vote.
In a statement, he called it a “travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks.” Administration officials declined to say if they would seek a second vote in the hopes they could change the minds of a few Democrats. The vote was a victory for Republicans and the National Fraternal Order of Police, who said Adegbile’s connection with the legal case of Mumia Abu-Jamal disqualified him from holding high public office.
Abu-Jamal was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Officer Daniel Faulkner. Prosecutors agreed to a life term after a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing, citing flawed jury instructions. Abu-Jamal, a one-time radio journalist and former Black Panther, garnered worldwide support for his claims that he was the victim of a racist justice system. Shortly before the vote, Sen.
Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, read from a letter written by Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the policeman. “Today, as my husband lies 33 years in his grave, his killer has become a wealthy celebrity,” she wrote. “Old wounds have once again been ripped open, and additional insult is brought upon our law enforcement community in this country by President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile.” Supporters also noted that Adegbile was working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund at the time it intervened in the case — years after Abu-Jamal had been convicted, but that he had not made the decision to join the effort on his behalf.