The Senate on Tuesday confirmed James Cole as U.S. deputy attorney general, bringing to a close a year-long battle between congressional Republicans and the White House over one of President Obama’s most embattled nominees.
The final vote on Cole’s nomination was 55 to 42, with three senators not voting. The confirmation vote clears the way for Cole, who has already been serving as deputy attorney general since he received a recess appointment by President Obama last December, to serve permanently in that position.
Cole’s road to confirmation has been among the bumpiest of any Obama nominee.
He was first nominated by Obama in May 2010 but was blocked from receiving a confirmation vote for months by Senate Republicans, who charged that he had ignored compliance problems during his tenure as independent monitor at AIG before the 2008 financial collapse and had made inappropriate comments about the attorney general’s role in fighting terrorism.
Obama then pushed the nomination through during last winter’s congressional recess, allowing Cole to serve through December 2011.
After the start of the 112th Congress in January, Republicans continued to voice opposition to Cole. The confirmation process then came to a standstill when Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged Republicans to block a vote on Cole. Grassley said that he took the action because he was dissatisfied with the Justice Department’s handling of his request for documents related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives “Fast and Furious” operation.
The Justice Department eventually reached an agreement with the senators on the documents, and the confirmation vote proceeded, although Grassley was one of the 42 Republicans voting against Cole’s confirmation on Tuesday.
Five Republicans on Tuesday joined 50 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to confirm Cole. The Republicans voting “yes” were Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Richard Lugar (Ind.).
The Senate also on Tuesday confirmed by unanimous voice vote Virginia Seitz and Lisa Monaco to serve as assistant attorneys general.