President Obama's nominee to be Attorney General Eric Holder's top deputy at the Justice Department crashed into a Republican roadblock in the U.S. Senate on Monday, garnering just 50 votes, 10 short of the number needed to break a GOP-led filibuster. Dick Lugar of Indiana was the lone Republican to support the nomination. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote at the last minute to 'no' in order to have the vote reconsidered at a later date.
James Cole, a veteran Washington attorney nominated in May, had been serving in the position since late December courtesy of a presidential recess appointment, one that expires at the end of the current session of Congress. And despite the bipartisan support of eight former attorneys general, Republicans remained steadfast in their opposition, though nothing about Monday night's vote changes Cole's temporary job status.
GOP problems with the deputy attorney general are two-fold. Not only is there concern about Cole's tenure as an independent consultant to insurance industry giant AIG prior to the company's near-collapse in 2008 and its subsequent government bailout, but Republicans also voiced strong concern about what they believe to be his soft-on-terrorism stance.
Republican senators repeatedly referred to an op-ed the nominee penned in 2002 in the Legal Times in which Cole referred to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as "criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population," and included the attacks in the same vein as "many other devastating crimes" like rape, drug trade, organized crime, and child abuse.