By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The Senate yesterday approved a federal judge from Chicago as second-in-command at the Justice Department, part of a fledgling agreement between Democrats and the White House to move toward confirmation of various executive appointments they each have put forward.
Mark R. Filip, 41, will take over as deputy attorney general to formally replace Paul J. McNulty, who resigned seven months ago after the Justice Department's firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
The appointment comes after months of partisan wrangling over presidential nominations and followed a discussion earlier yesterday between Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, according to legislative aides and administration officials.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said that Bolten "pledged to improve the stalled nomination process" and that the Senate's voice vote in favor of Filip was "in return and a sign of good faith."
White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said the sides had agreed to procedural changes to help move nominations along. "We look forward to working constructively with the Senate majority leader to ensure that all Republican and Democratic nominees receive fair consideration and swift confirmation," she said.
One Senate aide said the White House promised to move more quickly on Democratic appointments to various committees and boards, including the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Filip will oversee day-to-day operations at Justice under Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, another former federal judge who was confirmed in November to replace Alberto R. Gonzales.
Filip's appointment fills a crucial vacancy at a department still reeling from a wave of high-level departures in the wake of the prosecutor firings scandal. The job has been handled since summer by Craig Morford, a career prosecutor from Ohio.
President Bush appointed Filip to the U.S. District Court for northern Illinois in 2004, after Filip worked as federal prosecutor and then a lawyer in private practice. He also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and participated as a GOP volunteer in the 2000 presidential election recount.
Mukasey said in a statement that he was "eager for Judge Filip to become a member of my leadership team," and that he hoped the Senate would move to confirm other Justice nominations.
At least one of those appointments is unlikely to be approved anytime soon, however: The nomination of Steven G. Bradbury, acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel, remains in limbo over his role in authorizing waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques.