Harold Koh is one step closer to confirmation.
The outgoing dean of Yale Law School won a procedural vote in the Senate today, setting up a final vote today or Thursday on his nomination for the top legal job in the State Department.
Koh’s nomination has lingered in the Senate since the Foreign Relations Committee gave him its backing May 12. Though he has gotten some bipartisan support — including from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the top Republican on the committee — some conservatives have argued that he will give too much weight to international law at the expense of U.S. sovereignty.
Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) told the Senate today that there is flimsy evidence for some of the criticisms, such as the idea that Koh wants to impose Islamic religious law in the United States. “Dean Koh deserves a better debate than he has been given thus far,” Kerry said.
Koh, a longtime Yale law professor, was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration and has been mentioned as a possible future nominee for the Supreme Court. He’s been a lightning rod for conservatives on foreign policy because of his writings, including his description of the United States as part of an “axis of disobedience” for President George W. Bush’s refusal to support the International Criminal Court.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) spoke against Koh’s nomination, saying Koh would make international bodies and unelected officials the “ultimate legal authority” for U.S. citizens. “He has stated what I would consider to be radical views,” Cornyn said.
Senators voted 65-31 to end debate, tossing aside the prospect of a full-scale Republican filibuster. A vote is likely Thursday, unless senators agree otherwise.