The Senate Judiciary Committee gave its support this morning to three of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Department of Justice.
Elena Kagan, nominee for solicitor general, David Kris, nominee for assistant attorney general in charge of the National Security Division, and Thomas Perrelli, nominee for associate attorney general, won the committee’s endorsement on lopsided votes. Senators didn’t even bother with a recorded vote on Kris, endorsing the widely regarded expert on national security investigations on a voice vote.
The votes came a week later than Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had wanted. When he asked for votes on Kagan and Perrelli a week ago, Republicans exercised their option under the committee’s rules for a one-week delay.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee’s ranking Republican, said he still has some concerns about Kagan’s views. In written questions, he asked her about a number of controversial issues, and he said today that she gave “inadequate answers.” Specter added that he plans to meet in person with Kagan before a vote by the full Senate. (The two exchanged letters recently: pdfs here and here.)
Leahy noted Kagan’s support across a wide political spectrum. “Every solicitor general who served from 1985 to 2009 — in either Democratic or Republican administrations — has endorsed her nomination,” he said.
Kris’ nomination must head to the Senate Intelligence Committee before it goes to the full Senate. Perrelli’s nomination is going directly to the full Senate.
Turning the tables on Democrats who have criticized opinions written by the Office of Legal Counsel, Specter said that controversial memos issued during the Bush administration suggest the Senate should give more scrutiny to nominees for the Department of Justice — who, of course, will be Democrats for at least another four years. “I think we have to perhaps do a more intense job,” Specter said.