March 05, 2014, 12:27 pm
Senate rejects Obama nominee who defended convicted cop killer
By Ramsey Cox
The Senate voted 47-52 Wednesday to reject controversial nominee Debo Adegbile as an assistant attorney general.
Seven Democrats voted against moving forward with President Obama’s nomination of Adegbile, which the Fraternal Order of Police and other groups opposed because of his involvement in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) then switched his vote from yes to no in a move that allows him to bring the nomination up again for a future vote.
Every Republican also voted against the nomination, sending it to defeat. It's the first time a nomination has gone down since Democrats changed the Senate's filibuster rules so that only bare-majority votes are needed on procedural motions.
Vice President Biden presided over the vote and would have been available to break a time, but his vote was not needed.
Along with Reid, the Democratic votes against Adegbile were Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), John Walsh (Mont.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Bob Casey (Pa.).
Several other Democrats in tough races voted in favor of the nomination. Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) are all seen as vulnerable in this year's midterms, but all three voted in favor of moving the nomination forward.
Adegbile was the director of litigation for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund (LDF) when it defended Abu-Jamal in an appeals case.
Since the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, Abu-Jamal has become a cause célèbre and a political lightning rod who has successfully petitioned to throw out his death sentence.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Adegbile’s nomination was a “thumb in the eye of our law enforcement officers.”
“The nominee inserted his office in an effort to turn reality on its head, impugn honorable and selfless law enforcement officers, and glorify an unrepentant cop-killer,” McConnell said. “This is not required by our legal system. On the contrary, it is noxious to it.”
Adegbile said he was only doing his job when leading the LDF and that everyone deserves a fair defense in the U.S. court system. Civil rights groups for years have said Abu-Jamal was the victim of a racist criminal justice system.
Reid argued that Adegbile was being prosecuted for guilt by association since he didn’t actively defend Abu-Jamal.
“The nominee didn’t step into one court room on behalf of the murderer,” he said.
Reid said Republicans have “distorted this good man’s name” to stop him from working on voting rights issues in the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Reid said that's because Republicans don't want poor people to vote.
Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) brought up the fact that Republicans supported Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts's nomination despite his representation of a murderer who killed eight people including a teenager.