- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The long-stalled bid to install President Obama’s choice as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights is finally heading for a vote on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Republican objections to Thomas E. Perez had delayed a final vote on the former Clinton administration prosecutor and Maryland Labor Department secretary. They had raised concerns about his ties to an immigrant-advocacy group amid questions about the Justice Department’s dismissal of a complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party.

Senate sources said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, agreed to schedule a cloture vote on Mr. Perez’s confirmation. If he gets the 60 votes needed, a final vote and likely confirmation would follow.

Mr. Perez’s confirmation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in June on a bipartisan vote of 17-2.

Although he played no role in the New Black Panther Party case, Republicans have been concerned about the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss a civil complaint against three of four defendants in the case after judgments against them already had been approved.

Dressed in black shirts, black pants, black jackets, black boots and carrying a nightstick, the New Black Panthers were caught on videotape issuing racial taunts and slurs at would-be voters.

Political appointees at Justice overruled career attorneys who had brought the case, ordering that it be dismissed against all but one New Black Panther who carried the nightstick. A court order obtained by the department against that member prohibited him from displaying a weapon at a polling place until 2012.

Republicans also have been critical of Mr. Perez’s involvement with CASA de Maryland, an immigration-rights organization that has endorsed matricula consular cards as state identity cards, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, day labor sites, a reduction in restrictions on immigrants receiving drivers licenses, and race-conscious admissions policies for health-professions schools.

Mr. Perez served on the organization’s board from 1995 to 2002.

Republicans have expressed concern that his ties to what they described as an extreme immigrant-advocacy organization would work to undermine immigration enforcement if he took over the civil rights division at Justice.

• Jerry Seper can be reached at jseper@washingtontimes.com.

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