- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2011

Senate Republicans blocked a nomination by President Obama for the first time this year on Monday, when they successfully filibustered the confirmation of the White House’s pick for the No. 2 official at the Justice Department.

Democrats had argued that acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole, whom Mr. Obama wanted named to the post permanently, needed full congressional backing if intelligence from terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden’s killing is to be fully put to use.

But Republicans objected to Mr. Cole, largely over concerns about his suggestions that terrorist suspects should be tried in civilian criminal courts, not military tribunals.

Mr. Cole unfortunately stands by really the outdated, outmoded characterization that these terrorist attacks were ordinary crimes, which they are something much worse indeed,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

“The American people want a Department of Justice that is committed to enforcing the law and protecting the innocent, not creating new civil rights for terrorists or treating them as ordinary criminals when they are something else indeed.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, had used a parliamentary tactic intended to overcome GOP resistance of Mr. Cole. The cloture motion limited debate, but also required the OK of at least 60 senators before the nomination could proceed toward a final vote. Democrats control 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

But Mr. Cole never got a final vote, as the cloture motion fell short on a vote of 50-40. Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana was the lone Republican to side with the Democrats’ failed attempt to overcome the filibuster. Ten senators were absent and didn’t vote.

Mr. Reid, in a parliamentary tactic, switched his “yes” vote to a “no” vote in order to reserve the right to bring up Mr. Cole’s nomination again later.

Mr. Obama sidestepped the Senate to directly appoint Mr. Cole - whose nomination had been stalled for months - when the Senate was on recess in late December.

Because Mr. Cole is a so-called “recess appointment,” his term will expire at the end of the year unless he is confirmed by the full Senate.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he typically opposes recess appointments on principle because they bypass normal Senate procedure.

“We have a process in place for nominations, and if the president isn’t willing to work with senators to clear nominations, the nominee shouldn’t get a second bite at the apple,” he said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, accused Republicans of playing politics with national security, saying it was “the wrong filibuster at the wrong time.”

“Our success in protecting our nation depends on the ability of the president to rely on his national security team,” he said. “Jim Cole is a key member of that team, with a well-deserved reputation for toughness, fairness and integrity.”

The administration and many Capitol Hill Democrats have pushed for many terrorism suspects to be tried in civilian courts, while Republicans want military tribunals used instead.

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