The Senate voted 72-22 today to confirm Thomas Perez as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, after a months-long delay.
Perez, who turns 48 on Wednesday, will return to the Justice Department office where he began his legal career two decades ago. He was a prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division from 1989 to 1994, and he later served as a deputy during President Bill Clinton’s second term.
His confirmation was never in serious doubt, but Republicans delayed a vote because of Perez’s past advocacy for immigrants and an unrelated case of alleged voter intimidation in Philadelphia.
In the end, senators spent little time openly debating the merits of Perez’s nomination. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Republicans of weakening law enforcement by delaying several other nominees for top Justice Department posts. GOP senators have raised various objections to the nominees, including their qualifications and advocacy on issues such as abortion.
Perez has most recently been Maryland’s labor secretary. He’s also worked in the civil rights office of the Department of Health and Human Services, in the office of then-Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and at the University of Maryland law school.
UPDATE (1:51 p.m.): Click here to see how senators voted.
UPDATE II (2:59 p.m.): Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement that he's pleased with the confirmation: “One of my highest priorities as Attorney General has been to ensure that the Civil Rights Division will again continue to advance the interests of justice and equal protection for all Americans. Tom is an exceptional lawyer and both the Department and the nation will benefit from his leadership and legal expertise.”