Republican Senators are warming to the nomination of Thomas Perez to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, increasing the likelihood that the full Senate will vote to confirm Perez within weeks.
Their support follows a private meeting Wednesday night in which Perez alleviated some of the senators' lingering concerns, two Republican senators said today. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Perez’s nomination 17-2 two weeks ago, but Republicans had said they worried about his past political activity and about what policies he would pursue.
One objection, for example, was whether the Civil Rights Division would try to increase the requirements for translation services at medical facilities. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a physician and one of two who voted against Perez in committee, said new requirements might hurt the doctor-patient relationship. Even alone, Coburn could have held up Perez’s nomination indefinitely.
But at the private meeting, Perez pointed to guidelines that the Bush administration developed for translation services and said he would not seek to change them, said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who attended the meeting. Coburn was also there, Kyl said, as was Perez supporter Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said he knew of no senators who would now object to a Senate vote on Perez’s nomination. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said a vote would likely be scheduled soon.
Sessions was the second vote against Perez two weeks ago, but he also attended the private meeting Wednesday and said today he was persuaded Perez could put aside his previous political activity and advocacy work. “It was a good meeting, and I think I got to appreciate him more as a person,” Sessions said.
Perez was on the board of directors of Casa de Maryland, a non-profit that provides services to immigrants, from 1995 to 2002, serving as president in his final year. He then served on the Montgomery County Council. Sessions said he learned Wednesday that Perez, as a Civil Rights Division prosecutor, once tried a case in Mobile, Ala., when Sessions was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
“He has some good experience in the Department of Justice,” Sessions said.