Senate panel advances Merrick Garland’s nomination as attorney general

Politics

Judge Merrick Garland, nominee to be Attorney General, is sworn in at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s selection for attorney general, moved a step closer to securing Senate confirmation as the top U.S. law enforcement official on Monday as the Judiciary Committee threw its weight behind his nomination.

The federal appellate judge won bipartisan support in a 15-7 tally in the Senate Judiciary Committee to advance his nomination to the Senate floor for a vote that Democrats hope will be held sometime this week. Among the four Republicans voting in favor of Garland were two former chairmen of the committee, Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham.

He drew the support of the committee’s Democrats while seven Republicans voted no.

If the full Senate approves his nomination, Garland would take the reins at the Justice Department as it handles a sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6 riots, when supporters of former Republican President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory.

Garland has told senators he would make the investigation a top priority, adding that he feared the Capitol breach was “not necessarily a one-off.”

“We must do everything in the power of the Justice Department to prevent this kind of interference with policies of American democratic institutions,” Garland said last month.

He has also pledged to prioritize civil rights to combat racial discrimination, saying America doesn’t “yet have equal justice.”

“Communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system; and bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution, and climate change,” Garland said.

Last week, the Civil Rights Division said it would investigate the rising tide of hate crimes in the U.S., as Asian Americans have experienced a growing number of racially motivated attacks.

“The United States is currently facing unprecedented challenges, some of which are fueling increased bigotry and hatred,” said Pamela Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

She added that her office is working with the FBI, federal prosecutors and local police to “evaluate possible hate crimes,” without providing further details.

A Justice Department official told Reuters the statement was a direct response to the increasing reports of violence against Asian Americans.

Garland, a federal appellate judge and former prosecutor, is widely expected to be confirmed as the nation’s top U.S. law enforcement official.

On March 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee intends to hold a confirmation hearing for Lisa Monaco and Vanita Gupta, Biden’s choices to serve in the No. 2 and No. 3 top Justice Department jobs.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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