The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday deadlocked in a party-line vote on the nomination of Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general, but her confirmation is still on track with the expected support of moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The committee voted 11-11 along party lines in a tie vote Thursday, which means which means that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to take procedural steps to advance her nomination to the Senate floor.
Gupta can be confirmed with solely Democratic votes in the 50-50 evenly divided Senate. Manchin told CNN last week he’s likely to support her, paving the way for the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s pick to be No. 3 at the Justice Department, unless unexpected Democratic opposition arises. Moderate Republicans, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, have also yet to weigh in on the nomination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday also advanced Lisa Monaco’s nomination to be deputy attorney general by voice vote without opposition.
Republicans have vocally opposed Gupta’s nomination. They pressed her over previous tweets critical of Republicans and accused her of being an “extreme partisan advocate” at a contentious confirmation hearing earlier this month.
The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that’s pushed to confirm conservative judges, launched an advertising campaign to try to sink Gupta’s nomination.
Gupta, who led the Justice Department civil rights division in the Obama administration, apologized at the hearing for her tweets, saying she wished she could take back her harsh rhetoric. She touted the support her nomination received from numerous law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police and the National Sheriff’s Association.
“I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years,” Gupta said. “I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won’t be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me.”
During Thursday’s committee meeting ahead of the vote, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas accused Gupta of falsely saying at her hearing she never supported the decriminalization of drugs, pointing to a 2012 opinion article in The Huffington Post. Republicans sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin to hold a second hearing on her nomination, claiming she misled the committee.
“I believe Ms. Gupta’s deception, her lack of remorse, her dishonesty when it comes to answering straightforward questions of the committee, disqualifies her for the office of associate attorney general,” Cornyn said.
Democrats responded that Gupta made her position on drugs at the hearing clear, saying her position had evolved over the past decade and she does not support legalizing all drugs. Durbin accused Republicans of distorting her views on issues like defunding the police.
“I’m struggling to understand the fierce opposition of the Republicans to this nominee,” Durbin said. “She has the support of law enforcement groups any one of us would be proud to have, and yet she continues to be labeled as soft on crime or wanting to defund police, and there’s no truth to that whatsoever.”
Gupta is only the latest nominee to face a tie committee vote, where the 50-50 split prompted an even number of Democrats and Republicans on the committees. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday deadlocked 13-13 on the Colin Kahl’s nomination to be Pentagon policy chief, but his nomination is also on track thanks to the support of Manchin.