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Senate Blocks Obama's Nominee For Civil Rights Job

Debo Adegbile, shown at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 when he was an attorney with the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP.
Alex Brandon
Debo Adegbile, shown at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 when he was an attorney with the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP.

Eight Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined Republicans in a vote to block President Obama's nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

The Washington Post writes:

"[Adegbile's] nomination was adamantly and vocally opposed by conservatives due to his participation in an appeal filed on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal-- an internationally-known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner."

The Senate vote was 47-52 against Adegbile's nomination.

It marks the first Obama administration nominee to be rejected under new Senate rules approved in November requiring only a simple majority to move such nominations ahead.

Politico says:

"Adegbile previously worked for the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, which worked in support of Abu-Jamal's efforts to overturn his death sentence."

"That past led both of Pennsylvania's senators — including Democrat Bob Casey — to oppose Adegbile's nomination. Republicans spent much of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning on the Senate floor criticizing the assistant AG choice pointedly for his work with Abu-Jamal."

"'He decided to join a political cause ... and in my view, by doing so he demonstrated his own contempt for — and frankly a willingness to undermine — the criminal justice system of the United States,' said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). 'I do not believe that Mr. Adegbile's nomination is consistent with justice for the family of officer Danny Faulkner or for anyone else that cares about the law enforcement community.'"

Update at 4:50 p.m. ET:

The president said in a statement that the Senate's failure to confirm Adegbile is "a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.

"Mr. Adegbile's qualifications are impeccable," Obama said in the statement. "He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked."

"The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant," the president said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.