Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says last night’s vote that rejected one of President Obama’s nominees for a key U.S. Department of Justice position was “one of the most shameful” votes in his 30 years in the Senate.
The nominee, Debo Adegbile, was skewered by critics who said he had once represented a cop killer.
“No one questioned his abilities, no one questioned his qualifications,” Harkin says. “The only thing that was an issue was he had signed on to a brief when he was with the Legal Defense Fund for the NAACP, an appellate brief for a person who had been convicted of a very heinous crime, the murder of a policeman, 30 years ago.”
Adegbile was the president’s appointee to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Every Senate Republican and seven Democrats voted against his nomination, blocking it.
Harkin notes, he was in the Senate when President Clinton was impeached and last night’s vote ranks alongside the impeachment vote as “one of the lowest points.” Harkin, a Democrat, says this vote was completely out of line.
“Adegbile didn’t know this guy, he didn’t defend him or anything, he was just doing his job in a pro bono sense, actually, fulfilling his legal obligation in his profession to provide representation for those who the government has gone up against,” Harkin says. “That’s why we have pro bono lawyers do this kind of work.”
The final vote was 52 against to 47 for the nomination, which needed 51 votes to proceed.
Harkin suspects those who voted against the nominee did so because they feared a campaign year backlash and being labeled soft on crime.
“The Fraternal Order of Police came out and opposed Adegbile because of this,” Harkin says. “Well, shame on them, too. Shame on them. I count myself as a pretty good supporter of the Fraternal Order of Police all the time I’ve been here, but shame on them.”
The FOP called the president’s choice of Adegbile “a thumb in the eye of law enforcement.”
The case in question involved Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man who was sentenced to death in 1981 for the slaying of a policeman in Philadelphia. The death sentence was later overturned and Abu-Jamal is now serving a life prison sentence. Adegbile was involved in the case in 2006.