Attorney General candidate Merrick Garland testifies during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2021.
Drew Angerer | Pool | Reuters
The Senate voted Wednesday to reaffirm Merrick Garland as attorney general, placing the longtime federal appeals judge and former Supreme Court election at the helm of an agency central to President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
The vote was 70-30.
Garland assumes leadership of the Department of Justice as the sprawling agency continues to investigate the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol, one of the largest probes in its history. Garland has identified the investigation as his # 1 priority.
The Justice Department will also be instrumental in implementing Biden’s comprehensive plans for civil rights enforcement and criminal justice reform. The department is likely to make important decisions over the coming years regarding the regulation of the country’s largest tech companies, which some lawmakers are pushing to disband.
Garland pledged to defend the Justice Department’s independence during hearings before the Judiciary Committee last month. Biden has made restoring the traditional distance between the department and White House political officials a top priority.
“I would not have taken this job if I had thought that politics would influence law enforcement and investigations,” Garland told the legislature at his hearing. He said he and Biden had not discussed an ongoing investigation into the tax affairs of Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., welcomed Garland’s nomination ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
“America can breathe a sigh of relief that we finally have someone like Merrick Garland to run the Justice Department. Someone with integrity, independence, respect for the rule of law and credibility on both sides of the aisle,” Schumer told the Senate. “He understands that the attorney general’s job is to protect the rule of law, unlike the former attorneys general under President Trump.”
Before Biden appointed Garland attorney general, the centrist attorney was appointed to a Supreme Court seat by former President Barack Obama in 2016 to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. The then Republicans controlled the Senate and refused to hold a hearing on his nomination.
The Senate is currently reviewing a few other top Justice Department candidates, including Vanita Gupta, Kristen Clarke, and Lisa Monaco. Gupta and Monaco faced questions from the senators on Tuesday.
Gupta, who headed the Justice Department’s civil rights division under Obama, is appointed assistant attorney general. Clarke is named director of the Civil Rights Department. Biden appointed Monaco Deputy Attorney General.
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